While Riding the Train from Warsaw to Krakow, we decided to learn a few Polish phrases. My sister, Ginger, along with my wife, Alice, and my mother, Josephine, were in the same cabin with me. Ginger was reading Polish phrases when I noticed that she was looking a little flushed, so I asked her what she found. She sheepishly said, “I opened the phrase book to the ‘personal relationships’ section, but now I've gotten myself so embarrassed, I can't repeat these phrases in English or Polish.” This prompted Alice to remark, “What happens in Poland stays in Poland.”

The trip was both personal and business. I was part of an international delegation to Poland that was co-hosted by EPRI and the government agency Polish Grid Operator (PSE Operator) that shared concerns and best practices on grid optimization and utilization. Worldwide, our transmission system operators (TSOs) face big issues, as do our transmission owners, and we were working to gain perspective and advance common solutions.

Participants from TSOs Vattenfall Europe Transmission and Slovenska Elektrizacna Prenosova Sustava (SEPS), and Électricité de France Research & Development joined a delegation of TSOs and transmission owners from the U.S. Over the course of three days, we discussed similarities and differences in strategies in the operation and buildout of the European and North American grids, while we searched for common executable technical and business solutions for common issues.

MY PERSONAL PILGRIMAGE TO POLAND

My maternal grandfather, Alexander Krakowski, immigrated to the U.S. from Poland when he was six. He and his Polish wife, Mary Navroki, raised 11 children in Pennsylvania. My grandfather first work the coal mines, then ran a farm. As a consequence of how my mother was fed, I am quite fond of kielbasa, golumpki and pierogi.

At 87, my mother is the first of the 11 siblings to visit Poland. We arrived a few days early and drove through the countryside in the region from where her family emigrated, and it was very satisfying to see so many working farms. I felt quite at home there, even when the gas station attendant forcefully decided to teach me the Polish word for no. “Nie, nie, nie!” he shouted when I kept trying to enter a door that I thought might lead to a bathroom. I was finally redirected to the relief of us both.

A HISTORIC TIME IN POLAND

Our week in Poland coincided with the 30th anniversary of the selection of Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojty³a to become Pope John Paul II. It was also the 20th anniversary of the first free elections in Poland since 1945.

We saw caravans coming into our Krakow hotel bringing in prime ministers, presidents and chancellors from all over Europe to pay their respects to those in this country who blazed the trail to freedom for so many. We clapped as the prime mister of Poland, Donald Tusk, arrived in our hotel the night before he addressed the Polish people and the world.

To my distress, I learned that in Poland's 1000-year history, only 300 years have been free of foreign control. I am in awe of the progress made in improving the economic health of this country over the past 20 years of freedom to become an economic powerhouse in Central Europe.

POLAND'S ENERGY FUTURE

With connections to Germany, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Poland lies at the heart of Central Europe and is committed to addressing energy issues that affect the region.

Of course, energy is key to a prosperous Poland, and the PSE Operator serves as the country's transmission-serving entity. The PSE Operator organization was created in July 2004 and given responsibility for grid control. The week before we arrived, PSE Operator had gone live with its new command center, so we had the opportunity to tour what might be the most recently commissioned and the most advanced control center in Europe.

Stefania Kasprzyk, CEO of the PSE Operator, shared in her opening remarks that Poland faces environmental issues as generation is largely fueled by brown coal. With coming carbon constraints, new generation is likely to include nuclear with wind energy expected to grow quite rapidly.

As of 2009, PSE Operator is a truly independent entity that owns transmission assets, as well as information technology and telecom infrastructure. Kasprzyk shared that the organization faces significant hurdles because the current laws do not fit the current needs and that segments of the society are increasingly opposed to new transmission.

The PSE Operator is eager to avail themselves of new technologies to provide enhanced value. Talking to the international delegation, Kasprzyk stated, “And this is why we so value this cooperation.”

Magdalena Wasiluk-Hassa, director with the department of innovation at PSE Operator, shared her organization's strategy to use Smart Grid technologies to address industry concerns. She also talked about advances in the area of fast simulation and modeling and in reliability analyses.

Arshad Mansour, vice president of power delivery and utilization at EPRI, provided statistics that show the electricity sector is the single-largest consumer of electricity. EPRI is looking for member companies to join in their “green circuit” initiative to significantly reduce energy consumption.

Mike Heyeck, senior vice president of transmission with AEP, wants to move synchrophasor technology from the lab to the field. He encouraged those of us in the delegation to share experiences where we have used synchrophasor information to make better operating decisions.

Claude Counan, director of grid infrastructure at Électricité de France R&D, presented studies they prepared to reduce the electrical losses of components, to improve the transmission ampacity with low-sag conductors and to develop life-cycle-analysis methods, and drew some clues for the future to reduce losses as the use of carbon nanotubes conductors, even if farthest out.

Józef Dovala, executive director of strategy and international cooperation with SEPS, discussed issues including loop flows and reliability of supply. On the supply side, Dovala shared that when the Slovak Republic joined the European Union, the country agreed to dismantle a Soviet-style reactor and replace it with a newer design.

Generation adequacy was also discussed. Terry Boston, CEO of PJM, stated that getting their capacity market off the ground was the most difficult effort he had undertaken in his entire career.

PSE Operator's Jerzy Dudzik mentioned that his organization is taking steps to address a weak grid in the north and loop flows. Gas turbines are being placed in northern Poland, reactive power is being installed in the form of static var compensation and lines are being modernized. At the same time, phase shifters are being installed between Poland and Germany.

Michael Kranhold with Vattenfall Europe Transmission summed up the issues transmission owners and TSOs face, stating: “Of course we need a stable political environment. At the same time, we need new technologies, higher levels of staffing, a new level of cooperation with stakeholders and a higher level of awareness of the issues by the public.”

We move our industry forward by sharing international experiences and best practices. No one of us is as smart as the collective; so, in this vein, I've asked our friends at PSE Operator to share in future issues the details of their state-of-the-art control center. I've also asked Wasiluk-Hassa to share with us how PSE Operator is working with EPRI, EPRI members, technical universities and new hires to assure that the innovative technologies brought into Poland stay in Poland.