James “JT” Thompson

2016 Vito Stagliano Excellence in Electricity Policy Award

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition (NIPPC) has selected James “JT” Thompson as the 2016 recipient of the Vito Stagliano Excellence in Electricity Policy Award.

“JT is an accomplished change agent,” said Robert Kahn, NIPPC’s Executive Director. “By putting Balancing Authority Area operations into the hands of responsible generators, marketers and publically owned utilities, Thompson has shown how swaths of monopolistic domination within the nation’s power system can be mitigated.”

At the start of his career, Thompson moved swiftly from working as a metallurgist in North America’s largest copper mine to supervising control center operations just as the mine started automating key functions.

By the mid-1980’s Thompson launching and overseeing a new control center for the City of St. Cloud, Florida’s municipal utility. His growing controls expertise took him to Walt Disney World where he ran its Energy Control Center and certified Disney as its own Control Area.

With his next move, to Texas, Thompson was at the center of the post-EPAct world. He served as one of Enron’s first power traders, organized Koch Energy’s trading group and helped launch the original Shell Energy Power Group. During this period, Thompson also managed the Houston Light & Power control center and transitioned the company’s assets into the nearly-formed ERCOT market.

By 1999, Thompson was leading a new entity: Duke Energy Control Area Services. After establishing Duke’s merchant fleet under a single NERC-certified Control Area, Thompson began offering similar services to IPPs and several southeastern municipal utilities. Thompson’s growing business unit was spun off and sold to become Constellation Energy Control and Dispatch (CECD) in 2005.

CECD, which later became Gridforce Energy Management, runs Balancing Authority Area operations for 12 separate entities in WECC, SPP and SERC. These BAAs, which NERC consistently finds as superbly run, include transmission dependent munis as well as thermal and wind power generators. The BAAs function on equal terms with utility transmission operators, a status offering opportunities which wouldn’t otherwise exist.

For example, the generation-centric BAAs can access regional reserve pools and grid optimizations like Ace Diversity Interchange (ADI). Generators leaving Bonneville’s BAA are freed from often unjustified obligations saving millions of dollars annually.

In a major breakthrough for independent power, Thompson proved the efficiacy of wind projects operating as their own BAAs. CECD also ran the inovative generation reserves self- supply pilot for Iberdrola’s fleet of windfarms operating within the Bonneville Power Administration’s BAA.

A year and a half after selling Gridforce Energy Management to MSouth Equity and Power Generation Services,Thompson has moved on to form a new company: First Lightenergy LLC and the GRID2.0 subsidiary.

“NIPPC is proud to have participated with JT in his groundbreaking work,” Kahn commented. “Now is an ideal time to recognize him for what he’s accomplished so far even as we expect still greater innovation from him in the future.”


Past Awardees

2016: JT Thompson

2015: Jan Hamrin

2014: Philip Moeller

2013: Marlene Lockard

2012: Dana Peck

2011: Ray Baum

2010: Virginia Coe

2009: Denise Hill

2008: Jeff Morris

2007: Roy Hemmingway

2006: Vito Stagliano


Who Was Vito Stagliano?

Vito Alexander Stagliano – Advocate for Change in Electricity Policy

Vito Stagliano’s career included consequential service at the Department of Energy, national advocacy as Calpine’s VP of transmission strategy, and an instrumental role in guiding NIPPC.

The first recipient of the award named in his honor, Stagliano epitomized the qualities of leadership in electric policy innovation: incisive intelligence, firm advocacy, coalition building, and persistence. Vito Stagliano, always the gentleman, left an indelible mark on all those who knew him.

When he passed away unexpectedly in January 2008, Vito Stagliano was serving as Director of Research for the Washington DC-based Commission on Energy Policy, where he originally joined staff in March 2006. Formerly a Federal executive, Stagliano served most of his public service career in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), initially as Special Assistant to the Secretary, subsequently as head of the Policy Integration Office, and finally as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Analysis, the career service’s highest rank. He assisted in the analyses and design of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He oversaw the analyses conducted by the DOE national laboratories that led to the promulgation of the first Federal climate change policy. Stagliano oversaw the first drawdown of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve that coincided with the start of the first Gulf war and, in collaboration with Resources for the Future and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; he directed the landmark U.S.-European Study of the Cost and Benefits of Fuel Cycles.

While Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy in the Administration of George H.W. Bush, Stagliano led the government-wide effort that resulted in the National Energy Strategy promulgated by the President in 1991, and legislated by Congress in 1992 as the Energy Policy Act. For his public service between 1989 and 1992, He was awarded a bronze and silver medal for exceptional service by Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins, and a meritorious service medal by President Bush.

Stagliano was a Visiting Scholar at Resources for the Future (RFF) from 1993 to 1996, where he co-authored “A Shock to the System: The Restructuring of America’s Electric Utility Industry,” and “Energy Security in the Twenty-first Century,” the latter in collaboration with the National Defense University. He is also the author of “A Policy of Discontent: The Making of a National Energy Strategy.”

Stagliano was appointed a vice president of Commonwealth Edison Co. of Chicago, in 1998, responsible for transmission policy and bulk power operations, where, in collaboration with several other Midwest electric utilities, he developed the so-called Binary Model of a for-profit transmission business operating within the framework of a non-profit regional transmission organization. While also at Commonwealth Edison, Stagliano managed the regulatory approval processes, at the FERC, the FTC and the SEC, for the merger with PECO Energy, which resulted in the present-day Exelon Corporation. The merger was approved unconditionally on the prescribed 120-day calendar.

Stagliano subsequently held the position of vice president for transmission strategy at the Calpine Corporation. At Calpine, Stagliano directed the company’s participation in emerging ISOs and RTOs, provided strategic advice on Federal and State regulatory proceedings, oversaw filings and interventions in support of competitive wholesale power procurement processes by native utilities, and testified before the FERC and State Commissions on regional power markets development. He was instrumental in the redesign of RTO-West, which, as the latter Grid West provided a platform for a substantial consensus on the Pacific Northwest’s transmission system problems and opportunities.

Stagliano also advocated more competitive and market-driven behavior on the part of the Federal Power Marketing Administrations (BPA and WAPA), whether or not they were members of ISOs/RTOs.

Stagliano was a member of the U.S. and International Associations for Energy Economics, the Gridwise Architecture Council, the Theodore Thomas Society of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Poetry Society. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, served on the staff of the Peace Corps in Ghana and Washington, DC, and on the staff of the Agency for International Development in Senegal and Bourkina Faso. He served for two years as Executive Director of the Palau, Micronesia, Community Action Agency in the former U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific.