Tuesday, January 22, 2019

WECC: Name to Remain the Same

By Robert Mullin

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Western Electricity Coordinating Council’s effort to clarify its mission will no longer include a name change, the group’s new chief said Wednesday.

Under previous CEO Jim Robb, WECC last year revived a proposal to change its name to “Reliability West” as part of a broader campaign to rebrand its image to reflect its refocus on its core reliability assurance mission after the 2014 bifurcation that divided WECC in its current form from what would become reliability coordinator Peak Reliability. (See WECC Finding New Direction in Old Mission.) The business case for the name change was set out in a November 2017 white paper.

The WECC Board of Directors tabled the name change in June after an advisory vote among the group’s members and also in light of WECC’s continued search for a replacement for Robb, who left his role to take over the top post at NERC. (See NERC Names WECC Chief to Top Post.)

“The rationale for the name change had some substantive content to it,” Chair Kris Hafner said during a quarterly meeting of the WECC board Sept. 12. “It was thought to basically bring to closure any lack of clarity posed by bifurcation and the respective roles of Peak and WECC and to avoid any role confusion.” That latter point became “a moot issue” after Peak’s July announcement that it would cease operations at the end of 2019, she noted. (See Peak Reliability to Wind Down Operations.)

“The hope Jim Robb had was to recast WECC in light of its new mission, to remove the ‘coordinating’ term from its name to avoid confusion with reliability coordinator — or planning coordinator,” Hafner said.

She added that brand clarity was another factor driving the change, given that other organizations share the WECC acronym, particularly the Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., which operates in four Western states in the electric power space.

Despite those issues, it turns out WECC’s name will remain unchanged.

WECC Jim Robb name change

Frye | WECC

“I appreciate the decision that the board made back in June, coming in as a new CEO to have an opportunity to be part of the conversation that I think is really thoughtful,” new CEO Melanie Frye told the board. “I think that it makes sense at this time to not proceed with a WECC change in name, but to do some things … to mitigate the risks and those things that we identified in the business case.”

Key among those things: changing the organization’s web address from a .biz to a .org to reflect its status as a non-profit.

“With that it would give us the opportunity to refresh the brand — the look and feel when someone visits our webpage, and know that they’re dealing with a reliability organization, not a conservation council,” Frye said, adding that WECC could refresh its logo and color palette in what that would “really identify and distinguish ourselves” from the other “WECC” entities. It would also build relationships with those organizations to handle situations when correspondence is misaddressed to them, she said.

Frye also suggested that WECC’s rebranding emphasize use of the shorthand version of its name, rather than the spelled-out version.

“I think the goal would be to not divert focus from our staff or from the industry in trying to address any change of name of the organization,” Frye said.

She told board members she would report back to them in December on any progress staff make in addressing the issues identified in the name change business case, and how they plan to proceed in 2019.