ESMO/James Merlo
James Merlo

ESMO 2019: Q&A With James Merlo of NERC

Feb. 20, 2019
James Merlo will be one of the speakers for ESMO 2019 in Columbus, Ohio in June.

Earn professional development hours by attending ESMO 2019, one of the few industry conferences to integrate a technical conference with related outdoor demonstrations. Register by March 25 to get a $100 discount on the full registration rates for IEEE PES's 14th International Conference on transmission and distribution, construction, operation and live line maintenance. 

ESMO 2019 has a full lineup of technical conference sessions featuring speakers such as James Merlo, vice president and director, reliability risk management, for the North American Reliability Corporation. Here are some highlights of his upcoming session as well as some background on his education and how he got started in the industry. To learn more about the event, which is sponsored by IEEE PES and hosted by American Electric Power, visit the Web site

Q: Talk about ESMO 2019 and why power industry professionals should consider attending this event. 

A: This conference has been around for a long time, almost as long as me! Its importance to the IEEE Power and Energy Society is evident in its rich and lasting history. From the technical paper presentations and panel sessions to the massive indoor and outdoor field demonstrations, the applied settings to see various work practices and equipment in action by utilities and contractors is extremely educational and informative.

Q: Why did you decide to join a panel discussion at ESMO 2019? 

 A: I was honored when approached by this year’s conference staff. As the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO), NERC is extremely pleased to see how much effort is being exerted by industry to improve human performance and apply human factors engineering to not only reduce human error, but prevent it. Personally, it is very rewarding to see the work that NERC has done in the human performance area be so widely revered and accepted.

Q:  Describe the focus of your session. 

A: I would like to illustrate the positive contributions of safety and human performance improvement in cultivating our grid’s security, reliability and resiliency.

Q: What you plan to highlight during your part of the presentation?

A: The most important part of the grid: the people who plan, build, operate and maintain it. 

Q: How did you get interested in a career in the utility industry? 

A: I have studied human behavior for a long time. I have seen what good organizations can do to support it, and I have seen situations and circumstances in which organizations have set their staff up for failure. I truly believe that management is often aligned to get the results that they get.

Q: Describe your educational background and the early years of your career. 

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in Human Factors Psychology from West Point, a masters in Engineering Psychology from the University of Illinois and a doctorate in Applied Experimental and Human Factors Psychology from the University of Central Florida. I served in multiple combat tours in the Middle East and in airborne, light and mechanized infantry battalions across the world. People are our U.S. military’s greatest credentials.

Q: What is your current title? Also, what are some of your key responsibilities?

A: I am the vice president and director of Reliability Risk Management (RRM) at NERC, leading the ERO’s efforts to assess industry status and needs with regard to events and occurrences on the Bulk Electric System and exploring human performance challenges affecting bulk power system reliability. RRM is responsible for ensuring that reliability-based industry alerts, lessons learned, best practices and other valuable industry publications are quickly identified and communicated to the industry stakeholders and other various audiences. 

Q: What are the challenges and rewards of working in your job? 

 A: The North American grid is part of the most critical infrastructure in the world. Working with the men and women that plan, build, operate, protect, and sustain it is a privilege. I can’t think of a better way to serve.

To attend the technical presentation featuring James Merlo and participate in the other sessions at ESMO 2019, register here

About the Author

Amy Fischbach | Amy Fischbach, EUO Contributing Editor

Amy Fischbach is the contributing editor for the Electric Utility Operations section of Transmission and Distribution World. She worked for Prism Business Media (now Penton) for eight years, most recently as the managing editor of Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro magazine. She is now working as a freelance writer and editor for B2B magazines. Amy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.She serves as the national vice president of the American Society of Business Publication Editors. She can be reached at [email protected].

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!