2017 Keynote Speakers

Cheryl Mele

Cheryl Mele became ERCOT’s senior vice president and chief operating officer (COO) in January 2016. She oversees Grid Operations and Planning, Commercial Operations, and Governance, Risk and Compliance.

Prior to joining ERCOT, Ms. Mele served as deputy general manager and COO for Austin Energy, where she led its power operations, compliance and planning activities.

Ms. Mele brings 30 years of experience in the power industry to ERCOT. Her management and executive roles included both power generation and energy delivery before becoming COO at Austin Energy. Ms. Mele worked for General Electric before joining Austin Energy in 1991.

A registered professional engineer in Texas, Ms. Mele has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and completed The Utility Executive Course at the University of Idaho.

While at Austin Energy, Ms. Mele served on the boards of the South Texas Nuclear Operating Company, the Texas Public Power Association and the RMEL, an electric industry education and networking trade group. She continues to serve as a board member of the Austin Science Education Foundation.

Dr. Robin Podmore

Dr. Podmore has been involved throughout his career in developing power system applications and training power system operators with a focus on large scale interconnected systems including the North American interconnection which has around one Terawatt capacity.

Since 2010 he has been Co-Chair and Co-Founder of IEEE Smart Village. He has been deeply involved in identifying, engaging and mentoring entrepreneurs in Africa and India as they develop and apply technology that enables electricity, education and employment for those in need.

The systems developed and installed by Smart Village Entrepreneurs vary in size from several hundred watts to 25 kilowatts.

He has observed more and more, that the control, monitoring and computational methods for solving large scale interconnected system problems can be applied to village level micro-grids and vice versa. He has also observed that IEEE Smart Village provides opportunities for leadership and entrepreneurship which can help engineers advance their careers in both developed and under-developed regions.

Kenneth M. Mercado

A more than 30-year veteran of CenterPoint Energy and predecessor companies, Kenny Mercado has financial and operational responsibility of the company’s electric utility, which consists of a 5,000 square-mile service territory and power delivery to more than 2.3 million homes and businesses in the Houston metropolitan area. Prior to his current position, he was division senior vice president of Grid and Market Operations, responsible for automating and integrating the company’s nearly 53,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution grid to serve the Texas competitive market. He led the deployment of the company’s smart grid system, which includes the installation of smart meters and intelligent grid technology.

Mercado received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston. He also received an executive MBA degree from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

A licensed professional engineer registered in the state of Texas, Mercado serves on the boards of the March of Dimes in Houston, the American Red Cross Greater Houston Area Chapter, the University of Houston Honors College and Engineering Leadership Program, Southeastern Electric Exchange, Research Advisory Council at Electric Power Research Institute, and Advisory Board at Texas A&M Smart Grid Coalition.

Dr. Mark Laufenberg

Dr. Laufenberg has been the President of PowerWorld Corporation since co-founding the company in 1996.  PowerWorld, based in Champaign, Illinois, develops and distributes software for the simulation, analysis, and visualization of large scale electric power grids.  Their customers include over 1,000 utilities, regulatory agencies, consulting firms, trading firms, and universities in over 70 countries around the world.

Dr. Laufenberg received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1992, 1993, and 1997 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has been the Principal Investigator on several National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grants.   He has previous industry experience at Pacific Gas & Electric and the Jet Propulsion Lab, and has taught a course on technical entrepreneurship at the University of Illinois as a visiting professor.

Dr. Laufenberg has been a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Alumni Board at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 2009, and is currently serving as the chair of the Fundraising Committee.   Since 2011 he has been a board member of the State of Illinois’ Smart Grid Advisory Council and Energy Foundry.   From 2010-2016 he was a board member and Treasurer of Countryside School.

Prof. Wei-Jen Lee

Wei-Jen Lee received the B.S. and M.S. degrees from National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C., and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas, Arlington, in 1978, 1980, and 1985, respectively, all in Electrical Engineering.

In 1986, he joined the University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently a professor of the Electrical Engineering Department and the director of the Energy Systems Research Center.

He has been involved in the revision of IEEE Std. 141, 339, 551, 739, 1584, and dot 3000 series development. He is the Chair of the IEEE/IAS, Industrial & Commercial Power Systems Department (ICPSD). He is an editor of IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications and IAS Magazine, editorial board member of Journal of Modern Power Systems and Clean Energy (MPCE) and CSEE Journal of Power and Energy Systems, and guest editor of IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid. He has been inducted as a member of Academy of Distinguished Scholar at the University of Texas at Arlington since 2012. He is the project manager of IEEE/NFPA Collaboration on Arc Flash Phenomena Research Project.

Prof. Lee has been involved in research on utility deregulation, renewable energy, smart grid, microgrid, energy internet and virtual power plants (VPP), arc flash hazards and electrical safety, load and wind capacity forecasting, power quality, distribution automation and demand side management, power systems analysis, online real-time equipment diagnostic and prognostic system, and microcomputer based instrument for power systems monitoring, measurement, control, and protection. He has served as the primary investigator (PI) or Co-PI of over one hundred funded research projects with the total amount exceed US$12 million dollars. He has published more than one hundred and thirty journal papers and two hundred and forty conference proceedings. He has provided on-site training courses for power engineers in Panama, China, Taiwan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Singapore. He has refereed numerous technical papers for IEEE, IET, and other professional organizations.

Prof. Lee is a Fellow of IEEE and registered Professional Engineer in the State of Texas.


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