2021 Speakers

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

NIST Cybersecurity Framework

This 1-day course will provide an overview of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), also known as the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity. Participants will delve into how organizations have applied the CSF, and glean elements that can be adopted and/or adapted for their organization’s environments. Special emphasis will be placed on providing participants with the practical application of the CSF that helps to improve the security posture of their organization’s IT and Operational Technology (OT) networks and systems.

Casey W. O’Brien
Assistant Director for Cyber Defense Education,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Casey is the Assistant Director for Cyber Defense Education and Training with the Information Trust Institute in The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Casey has more than 25 years of large-scale information security and IT engineering, implementation, and management experience in challenging and cutting-edge public and private sector environments.

Solar DG Interconnection and Installation Deep Dive

Most coop engineers understand the NESC code very well but how many fully grasp the NEC Code, especially when it comes to solar DG interconnection.  This training session will provide real world detail regarding solar installation best practices and additionally create live Q&A opportunities to interact with an NEC code making expert.  Various case studies will be utilized to showcase accepted practices and professional solar installation techniques will be presented.

Sean Middleton, P.E.
Director – Strategy and Operations,
Finley Engineering

Sean joined Finley in 2019 as Director, Strategy Operations. As an accomplished Professional Engineer, he brings more than 23 years of experience to Finley. Sean will use his areas of expertise in electrical engineering, distribution system operations management, and design and maintenance of electrical systems, and consult with Finley energy clients on many of today’s regulatory and compliance issues. With his background in the development of broadband networks, he can also assist in helping energy and telecom clients in meeting RUS requirements and standards, staying up to date on legislative funding, provide project management support and techniques, wireless, FTTP and consult on smart grid initiatives.

Sean comes to Finley from Illinois Electric Cooperative where he served as Manager of Engineering and IT. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Bradley University and his MBA from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is a member of the IEEE including the Power, Communication, and Photonic Societies and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Middleton previously sat on the Cyber Security Member Advisory Group for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN/ NRECA) and serves on the State Board of Professional Engineers for the IL Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Shannon Fulton
Vice President of Development,
StraightUp Solar

Shannon joined StraightUp Solar in 2013 as Director of Business Development to grow the company in Illinois.  Today, she directs StraightUp Solar’s Central Illinois office in Bloomington and serves as the Vice President of Development.

She also lives her passion for advancing the use of renewable energy by serving in the past as President of the Illinois Solar Energy Association and today as a Solar Ambassador in Africa and Nepal for WeCare Solar. WeCare Solar is a non-profit focused on reducing infant mortality by equipping off-grid medical clinics in developing countries with solar power for lighting and emergency communication.

She is also a Licensed Professional Geologist with many years of experience in environmental consulting in Illinois.  She holds degrees in renewable energy, geology, and geohydrology from Illinois State University, where she also took the court as a Redbird basketball player.

Shannon enjoys hiking and kayaking in the wilderness, and has a keen interest in innovative skills, concepts, and technology as they apply to bringing renewable energy and potable water to developing countries.

Josh Hill
Vice President of Field Operations & Design,
StraightUp Solar

Josh joined StraightUp Solar in 2011. He holds an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Illinois and is a licensed Master Electrician.

Prior to coming to work for StraightUp Solar, worked for Boeing for five years until he got married and traveled the world for a year with his wife, Elizabeth.

After returning to Saint Louis, Josh wanted to put his electrical background to use within the solar PV industry and joined the StraightUp Solar team.

Josh enjoys working in the sun and helping to raise awareness about alternative energy sources.

In his free time, Josh teaches yoga, gardens, and practices earthen building techniques.

Bill Brooks, P.E.
Brooks Engineering

Bill is Principal of Brooks Engineering and has over 32 years of experience designing, installing, and evaluating grid-connected PV systems. He has written numerous technical manuals and articles for the PV industry that are widely used throughout the United States and beyond. He has trained over 15,000 contractors and code officials over the past 25 years. He was the lead technical advisor developing the IAEI PV Online Training for Code Officials (PVOT). His publications include the Expedited Permit Process for PV Systems, the Field Inspection Guidelines for PV Systems, and Understanding the CalFire Solar PV Installation Guidelines. Mr. Brooks is an active participant on many national and international codes and standards panels including UL1703 (PV Modules), UL1741 (Inverters), and UL2703 (Mounting Systems) Standards Technical Panels. He represents the Photovoltaic Industry Code Council on Code Making Panel 4 of the National Electrical Code (NEC). He chaired the NFPA Article 690 Solar Photovoltaic Systems, Article 691-Large-Scale PV Electric Supply Stations, and Firefighter Safety Task Groups for the NEC.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Turning the Tables in the Battle Against Ransomware

Ransomware is an ever evolving threat that businesses are facing on a daily basis. Adam will discuss recent changes that provide more leverage in the fight against ransomware actors and what you can do to help.

Adam Flatley
Director of Threat Intelligence,
[redacted], Inc.

Adam has over 18 years of cybersecurity and intelligence operations experience. He is the Director of Threat Intelligence for Redacted, Inc. In this role he drives the analysis and production of actionable intelligence for clients, partners, and the general public. Before joining Redacted, he served for one year as the VP of Tailored Intelligence at a small cybersecurity startup. Prior to that, he served as the Manager of Global Intelligence Operations for Cisco Talos’ Threat Intelligence & Interdiction team, a position that he held for two years. Prior to his time at Cisco, he served for fourteen years at the National Security Agency (NSA) in various operational capacities, most recently serving as the Director of Operations of a cybersecurity operations organization which was responsible for incident response, red teaming, vulnerability assessments, and threat hunting on critical networks. Earlier in his career at NSA, he distinguished himself by founding several new organizations within the Agency in order to meet cutting edge challenges posed by emerging threats or changes in technology to support counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and cybersecurity missions. This includes the founding of a new Threat Intelligence Center, which he then led for two years, guiding the fledgling organization until it became fully integrated into the existing processes and procedures.

What's Your Vulnerability Level?

This session offers a look at how a vulnerability scanner can provide a valuable view of your network, including the ability to provide asset management/inventory.

Chris Franzen
Information Technology Administrator,
 MJM Electric Cooperative

Chris joined MJM in 2016 as the coop’s first IT Administrator. Formerly, he worked at Nokomis School District as a Technology Coordinator for 10 years. He received his BA from Illinois College with a major in MIS. Active in various online tech communities, continuous learning is a passion.


Michael Coumerilh
Information Security Consultant,
National Information Solutions Cooperative

With more than 15 years of networking experience, system administration and PCI compliance leadership, Mike Coumerilh has added cybersecurity to his portfolio allowing him to keep up with the evil players working tirelessly to ruin your day. Married for more than 20 years, he has three beautiful children, is a die-hard St. Louis sports fan, and grills more evenings than not.

EV Charging and Utility Programs for Cooperatives

This session is an overview of EV Chargers and how networked charging enables utility management of electric vehicle resources.

Justin Breden
Area Marketing Manage – Illinois,
United Utility Supply Cooperative

Justin started working for Prairie Power, Inc. doing various maintenance jobs before coming to work at United Utility Supply. He started his career at UUS in December of 2003 and has worked as a warehouseman, inside sales, and is currently the Area Marketing Manager for the state of Illinois. He has an Associates Degree in Business Marketing from Richland Community College.

Justin grew up in White Hall, IL and moved to Decatur, IL in 1990. He still resides in Decatur with his wife, Hayley, and daughter, Keira. He enjoys various outdoor activities including boating, snowmobiling, and hunting.

Paul Price
Area Marketing Manager/Engineer,
United Utility Supply Cooperative

Paul has 39 years of experience in the utility field, and is currently an Area Marketing Manager at UUS. He was the chairperson for Kentucky Cooperative Engineering and Operations Association until 2018. He was trained on EV Charging through ChargePoint in California.

Paul is a 1982 Mechanical Engineering graduate from JB Speed Scientific School at the University of Louisville. He has been married to his wife, Cindy, for 36 years.

Effective Incident Response Planning for Small & Medium Businesses

Does your cooperative have an incident response plan currently in place? Come hear about what kind of plan smaller businesses should have in place in case an incident arise.

Alex Janas
Senior Incident Responder,
[redacted], Inc

Alex has 10+ years of experience at the National Security Agency. He served as a Technical Director for the Cyber Counter Intelligence Division of Tailored Access Operations (TAO), a Computer Network Exploitation (CNE) Master Operator & Global Network Vulnerability Analyst. Alex conducted and directed computer network exploitation operations against a wide range of high-value target sets; nation-states. nation-state sponsored hacking groups, counter terrorism, etc. Alex also achieve the highest certification of Master Operator. Previously, he worked for Hewlett Packard in the Enterprise Server Support Organization providing field service to many of HP’s high value clients. Alex served in the United States Marine Corps in the Infantry & Security Forces. Alex has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Tulsa & a B.S. in Electronics Engineering Technologies and was awarded a scholarship from the National Science Foundation scholarship for service program, Cyber Corps.

Battery Storage: An Adventure in Peak Demand Management

Northeastern REMC, like many other electric utilities, is experiencing increasing wholesale power costs. The largest drivers of these increasing costs have been capacity and demand costs. For years Northeastern has used many of the standard demand management resources – A/C and water heater switches, smart thermostats, and voltage reduction. While effective, these resources are limited (voltage reduction) or very hard to scale (switches and smart thermostats). Consequently, we have been looking for other solutions to help control wholesale power costs. Recent improvements in medium voltage power electronics and decreasing battery costs have led to utility-scale battery storage not only being technically feasible but also economically competitive.  This presentation discusses Northeastern REMC’s battery storage journey.

Jim Eitsert, P.E.
Vice President of Distribution Services,
Northeastern REMC

Jim is the Vice President of Distribution Services at Northeastern REMC. Jim has more than 30 years’ experience in the electric utility field with the last eight in his current role. Jim graduated from Purdue University with a BSEE and from Indiana University with an MBA. Jim is a registered Professional Engineer in the Indiana.

Legal & Government Relations Update

With the energy industry going through drastic changes, it is not immune to new laws and regulations.  Come find out what is currently being discussed that would have a direct effect on cooperatives.

Nick Reitz
Vice President of Government Relations,
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

Nick joined the AIEC in 2012 as the Manager of Government Relations. Formerly, he served as Director of Legislative Affairs for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and as Legislative Liaison for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. He received a BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Craig Sondgeroth
General Counsel,
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

Craig joined the AIEC in October 2018 as General Counsel. Craig had previously worked in private law practice representing agricultural businesses, including cooperatives and was most recently the General Counsel and Chief of Staff for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Craig and his wife, Kristina, have a son and  a daughter.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Demystifying MDR

Cyber attacks are becoming a day-to-day struggle for businesses. Trends such as ransomware and the rapid acceleration of digital transformation are causing security conscious customers to reassess their security plans and look to alternatives like Managed Detection and Response (MDR).

Covered in this session:

  • The biggest cybersecurity challenges for mid-market and enterprise organizations
  • The difference between a SIEM, MSSP, and MDR
  • Components of MDR and how to choose the right provider for your organization
Ron Pelletier
Founder & CCO,

Ron is the original Founder of Pondurance, having started the company from his basement in 2008. Ron has over 25 years of cybersecurity advisory experience. He started his career as an officer in the US Army, followed by nine years with Big Four firm, EY. As a strong consensus builder and customer advocate, Ron is focused on evangelizing the Pondurance brand as well as customer success.

System Reliability Through Wildlife Mitigation & How Robotic Installations are Changing the Game

As the electrical grid expands and an increase in technical data confirms the disturbing effects that wildlife interference has on system downtime, the need for effective wildlife mitigation has become even more significant. Additionally, not only is a proactive plan more effective, but successful measures are necessary in order to meet DNR and USFW requirements. In this session, we will shed light on how to improve system reliability with appropriate wildlife mitigation techniques, we will discuss best practices for interaction with federal agencies, we will hear first-hand testimony from electrical utility companies on the efficacy of various mitigation measures in regard to their electrical security standards and their experience with birds and climbing animals, and we will explore the role that robotic installation equipment is having on the current landscape.

Jason Jones
VP of Sales,
Power Line Sentry

Jason has an extensive background in the energy sector, and he has vast experience of creating focused go-to-market strategies based on a positive customer service experience and the development of the distributor and dealer network. His roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-involved attitude combined with his love of data analytics compliments his approach to building the collaborative relationship between wildlife mitigation and power reliability.

Vulnerabilities on Industrial Control Networks & OT Network Access from Remote Sites

As utilities make further improvements in the communications capabilities to their SCADA-DA networks, there is a vulnerability that can be exploited from a remote node. An incorrectly or incompletely configured network could allow for an intruder to bypass the safeguards that protect field assets from the corporate LAN or the internet.

We will discuss this type of vulnerability and what measures a utility can take to block this type of exposure, tools to detect such an intrusion and emergency actions that can be used to immediately shut down a compromised node.

Tisha Hayes
Senior Engineer,

Tisha is a Senior Engineer with 4RF USA. Her responsibilities include engineering support, proof of concept testing, testing competing products in head-to-head bench and field conditions and as a liaison to engineering and consulting firms.

Tisha has more than 35 years of experience with wireless radio technologies, SCADA RTU’s, instrumentation, process control and cyber-security for the electric, water, wastewater and gas utilities. Additionally, Tisha has worked in the petrochemical industry in oil and gas production, products pipelines, carrier-grade telephony at a CLEC/IXC and for several systems integration companies.

She has designed wireless networks, worked as the project manager on many large deployments, provided on-site engineering field support during commissioning and led the ongoing operations of SCADA networks.

One of Tisha’s strengths is in the analytical approach of evaluating different wireless technologies and competing products in a lab setting that closely approximates field conditions under a variety of interference, propagation conditions while validating serial and Ethernet performance.

Electric Vehicles: Market Forecast and Real World Charging Behavior

This session will look at:

    • Electric Vehicle market forecasts and history
    • End use behavior for charging personally owned EVs
    • Fleet charging behavior and timing 
    • Rate design and technology for managing EV charging from a cooperative perspective
Kevin Cox, P.E.
CDG Engineers

Kevin is a Principal and Utility Services Director at CDG Engineers based in of St. Louis, MO. He previously led Integrated Resource Planning and energy analysis for a G&T Cooperative Utility and is currently working directly with clients to implement industry standard methods for capacity expansion planning, load forecasting, strategy, and production cost modeling to their unique circumstances. Kevin is an Electrical Engineer and works with CDG’s electrical department to support distributed generation and storage projects, Arc-Flash/short circuit/load analysis studies, and relay upgrades.

Broadband RFPs: Tales from the Trenches

The cooperative’s network wasn’t performing. The vendor said they needed a $1 million upgrade to a recently-installed system. That’s when the Engineering Project Manager stepped in. When the dust settled, the Co-op received the network they required – without additional costs. Hear this story and more from the Engineers who’ve project managed hundreds of fiber projects. From sniffing out ethical violations to protecting your project (while saving money!), anyone putting out a Broadband RFP can’t afford to miss this session.

Carmen O’Neill, P.E.
Director of Engineering,
Vantage Point Solutions

One of the broadband industry’s premier project managers, Carmen has been active in the engineering field since 1995 and working in telecommunications since 2002. 

Carmen is active in the planning, funding, design, and project management of state-of-the-art network architectures, and is especially adept at networks with unique or complex requirements or funding conditions. A hands-on leader, she has assisted many companies in start-to-finish broadband deployments from strategic network and business planning, to design and engineering, through to deployment and migration. In particular, Carmen is a renowned expert on broadband grant and loan funding mechanisms and requirements and the associated network builds.

A passionate learner, Carmen is fascinated by leading edge technology and it’s implications for end users. In this vein, she served for many years as an industry-leading expert on technologies such as IPTV, middleware, encryption, and RF conversion. Additionally, Carmen is a frequent national speaker known for connecting technical expertise to end-user experiences and answering the question, “What’s coming next?”

Prior to joining Vantage Point Solutions, Carmen was a Senior Process Engineer at Toshiba America Business Solutions. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1995. Carmen is a registered Professional Engineer in several states.

AMI Changeout

Many cooperatives are now at the point that they need to change out the first generation of smart meters. Come hear how Anixter has worked with numerous cooperatives in moving to the next generation of AMI systems.

Chris Kelmel
Manager of Metering Services,

Chris has 21 years of utility industry experience focused in metering and metering-related services.

He started with Anixter (Hughes Supply at the time) in 1999 and worked as a product specialist selling and support specialty metering products, performed customer equipment training, and taught meter schools. In 2011, he accepted a position with Radian Research’s Weco division where he worked as an application engineer. In this role, he would perform customer demos, training, and attend meter schools around the county.

He came back to Anixter in 2013 in a management role as Assistant Manager of Metering Services. In that role, he would oversee day to day shop operations and also act as a project manager for its AMI deployment project. In 2018, he was promoted to Manager of Metering Services overseeing all of Anixter’s shop and field services including meter testing and AMI deployment.

Well, That Happened

Come hear from two Illinois cooperatives as they tell their story on how a cyber incident played out at their cooperative. You will hear two different stories outlining completely different types of incidents. Participants will share their successes and heartaches, their key takeaways, and what has been done since to prevent similar future incidents. You will have an opportunity to ask questions and gain valuable insight from your peers that may just help you avoid a similar situation.
Mike Wilson
Vice President of Member and Community Relations, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative

Mike is the Vice President of Member and Community Relations for Paxton, Illinois based Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative. Wilson has been at Eastern Illini for over 24 years, with much of that time spent as the co-op’s communication manager. He now serves on the senior leadership team, and oversees member services, communication, community relations, IT, billing, customer (member) service, legislative advocacy, key accounts, and marketing. In his spare time, Wilson enjoys officiating soccer and searching for vintage records for his vinyl collection.

Adam McKnight
Member Services Manager,
Clay Electric Co-operative, Inc.

Adam is the Member Services Manager for Clay Electric Cooperative in Flora, IL. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Springfield, Adam has been with the cooperative for three years. Working for a small cooperative leads to wearing many hats and some of those include overseeing the office staff, media and public relations coordination, marketing, member service, IT, and anything else that needs doing in the moment. Adam is proud to be a member of the Clay Electric Cooperative family and spends his off time having adventures with his home family.

Standing on the Sidelines of a Smart Grid Enabled World

With utility system automation pushing the boundaries of modern technology, many coops are still pursuing a “hit or miss” smart grid adoption rate.

In order to keep up with IOUs and other utilities, coops must understand the potential available for smart grid integration as well as the cost of not moving forward.  This session will seek to highlight industry trends and current smart grid innovation in order to fuel interest toward higher adoption rates.

Sean Middleton, P.E.
Director – Strategy & Operations,
Finley Engineering Company

Sean joined Finley in 2019 as Director, Strategy Operations. As an accomplished Professional Engineer, he brings more than 23 years of experience to Finley. Sean will use his areas of expertise in electrical engineering, distribution system operations management, and design and maintenance of electrical systems, and consult with Finley energy clients on many of today’s regulatory and compliance issues. With his background in the development of broadband networks, he can also assist in helping energy and telecom clients in meeting RUS requirements and standards, staying up to date on legislative funding, provide project management support and techniques, wireless, FTTP and consult on smart grid initiatives.

Sean comes to Finley from Illinois Electric Cooperative where he served as Manager of Engineering and IT. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Bradley University and his MBA from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is a member of the IEEE including the Power, Communication, and Photonic Societies and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Middleton previously sat on the Cyber Security Member Advisory Group for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN/ NRECA) and serves on the State Board of Professional Engineers for the IL Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Timeline of the Smart Grid from AMR to the Active Grid

This presentation will review the industry size by type (i.e. IOU, Public Power, Coop) and the beginnings of automation with the start of AMR in the 90s, moving into smart meters and AMI, and the smart grid as a result of the DOEs Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  The presentation will review the technologies that currently make up AMI, Advanced Distribution Management, the deployment of DERS, and where the grid is headed with Active Grid Management.  The presentation will describe where the utility industry has been from the typical one way model to where NERC has envisioned the grid in a two way model.

Edward Kobeszka
Mid-West Business Development Director,
Power Engineers

Edward has spent the past 20 years as a utility specialist in Product Marketing, Account Management, Business Development and Sales, and has led diverse teams of professionals to new levels of success in a variety of highly complex and competitive products such as AMI, DA, DR, ADMS, and IoT.

Prior to his utility specialist roles, he spent 20 years working at Investor owned, Municipal and Cooperative utilities in Engineering and in Management with an impressive track record in strategic planning, project management, and advanced solution strategies.

Edward has also taught engineering courses as an adjunct instructor at Purdue University (8 years) and Northern Michigan University (8 years).

Edward has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, an Associate degree in Electronics and an Associate degree in Supervision and Management from Purdue University.