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Serving on the Pandemic Frontlines

Sarah salati headshot image

An interview with Alumna Sarah Salati, '05

Q: Could you please tell us about your career after graduating from Johns Hopkins SAIS? 
A: I am the New York Power Authority’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. I oversee all wholesale market transactions including contracting of our generation assets as well as our customer facing energy solutions, our grid scale business development – all of which help support our state’s clean energy agenda and economic development. The customer facing solutions include services from implementation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure to traditional energy efficiency projects to our New York Energy Manager which supports building energy management.

Q: Could you please tell us about the role you played in implementing the COVID-19 response for NYPA?  
A: NYPA generates approximately 25% of energy for NY State and is responsible for about a third of the state’s transmission network. As an electric utility, NYPA is an essential service and was treated as such during NY Pause. As we strive to become the nation's first end-to-end digital utility, all staff who were able to work remotely were transitioned to virtual work, effectively leveraging our digital capabilities and tools at our disposal.

We sequestered about 80 essential workers on site so that they could continue their critical functions as operators in the control rooms of our generation and transmission assets.

NYPA also liaised with partners at the federal level as well as with Canada to ensure emergency support, such as essential personnel and technology such as spare equipment, were available should any entity need them – not dissimilar to the mutual assistance programs that support storm responses.

Lastly, my mind was always on our customers, particularly companies across New York who receive low cost hydro power and are employers of communities across the state. The pandemic put a strain on many of them. Of course there was pay check protection program at the federal level, but NYPA also introduced the Economic Development Customer Assistance Program, which allowed customers to defer payments for their electric bill for 6 months, allowing them to pay it back for up to 18 months at no penalty.

Q: How did your Johns Hopkins SAIS education prepare you for your current role?
A: I went to Johns Hopkins SAIS because I was very interested in making a difference and improving lives. I believe in the idea of ‘service to my fellow man’, specifically in the developing world through economic development. The school provided me with the grounding of economics and a better understanding of regional politics and policies for context and background of complex situations.

Q: What is something that you learned as a student that has stayed with you?
A: Corporate Finance and statistics courses. This provided me with the necessary skill sets and a vocabulary for my career. Just as important was an understanding of historical and geopolitical context – which defines the energy sector at its core.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I am proud of my use of this advanced international relations degree – I aspire to be a citizen of the world and believe I am contributing in a positive manner to the betterment of the world. Every day in the role that I have, I am focused on what many believe to be the existential threat of our time – our changing climate.

Q: What advice do you have for current students?
A: Take advantage of the breadth of courses offered and the opportunity for interdisciplinary courses and concentrations. This will be of huge value to your career and will provide you with a broader perspective on the world and take a multi-disciplinary approach to solve complex problems and create new opportunities for yourself and your employer.

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