Graff marks ten years overseeing Heartland resources

An evolving energy industry, fluctuating market and major change in Heartland’s structure impacts day-to-day business for director of power supply

When Heartland began operating within Regional Transmission Organization Southwest Power Pool (SPP) in late 2015, the historic change occurred mostly behind the scenes. While day-to-day operations for Heartland customers were largely unaffected, the opposite was true for some Heartland staff.

“Since the integration, my workload has largely become SPP-related,” said Heartland Director of Power Supply Adam Graff. “My overall responsibilities have remained the same, but it has certainly changed the way I do my job.”

Graff marked ten years with Heartland in February, and reflected on how his role has evolved over the years.

Managing Heartland resources

Adam Graff graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. In 2012, he obtained a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of South Dakota. He’s retained a Professional Engineering license since 2008. He lives in Montrose, SD with his wife Stephanie and their four children, Riley, Madeline, Bennett and McKenna.

Graff joined Heartland in 2008 as resource manager. Among his immediate responsibilities were managing Heartland’s generation and demand-side resources and assisting with power supply planning.

“Traditionally, we scheduled resources based on what our customer load was and what our needs were,” Graff said. “Historical data allowed us to predict future load and manage our resources with some ease.”

Since October of 2015, however, this straightforward process has become much more complicated.

“Operation within an RTO means we are primarily buying and selling power within the wholesale energy market. This environment gives us many more factors to consider when managing our resources, because we are susceptible to market conditions,” he said. “Not only do we need to ensure our resources are reliable, but we also need to make them as low-cost and flexible as possible in order to cover fixed costs, and responsive to the market in order to create revenue.”

Graff utilizes his knowledge of market conditions to set rates and make financial projections. He also handles all of Heartland’s communication infrastructure, which is critical in SPP’s fast-paced market environment.

Protecting Heartland’s interests

SPP is a customer-driven organization, and relies on its customer utilities to help develop policies, market rules, planning processes and more.

As such, Graff represents Heartland on SPP’s Markets and Operations Policy Committee and Supply Adequacy Working Group.

“SPP expects a high level of participation, and we have a lot at stake, so it makes sense for us to be heavily involved,” he said.

He must also remain educated on the market construct and ensure Heartland’s power supply is in compliance with market guidelines.

Performing day-to-day operations

Although much of his days are devoted to SPP activities, Graff has other responsibilities related to Heartland’s baseload resources.

He helps manage budgets and develop capital plans, and oversees resource planning, development and regulatory compliance programs.

He is nearing his 7th year as chair of the Engineering & Operations Committee for Public Power Generation Agency, which owns and operates Whelan Energy Center Unit 2. He’s also a member of the E&O Committee for Missouri Basin Power Project, which owns and operates Laramie River Station.

Graff also continues to administer Heartland and customer IRPs as well as implement and oversee demand side management and data management programs.

Rising to the challenge

Over the years, changes in structure and regulations plus a fluctuating electric industry and energy market have led Graff to be adaptable in his work environment.

According to CEO Russell Olson, he has always met the challenge.

“Adam is an incredibly valuable asset to our team and we are lucky to have him,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “There is so much behind the scenes work that goes into making sure we deliver reliable power in the most efficient manner possible. It is truly a complex business and we couldn’t do it without Adam’s expertise.