New NEETRAC Director Joe Hagerman Aims for Center to Lead Amid Power Grid Transformation

The NEETRAC advisory board meeting on May 17, at Georgia Tech. New NEETRAC Director Joe Hagerman (front row, second to left) was introduced to the board during the meetings.

The NEETRAC advisory board meeting on May 17, at Georgia Tech. New NEETRAC Director Joe Hagerman (front row, second to left) was introduced to the board during the meetings.

As the nation's power grid undergoes a transformative shift with historic investment in clean energy, Joe Hagerman understands the importance of this moment for the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center (NEETRAC). It presents the center with a distinct opportunity to showcase expertise, drive progress, and actively shape the future of the grid.

NEETRAC, a leading research and testing resource for the electric energy industry, housed under the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), has announced the appointment of Hagerman as its director, starting June 1.

“Under the leadership of former Director Rick Hartlein, NEETRAC has established itself as a trusted authority in testing and research for the electric power industry,” said Hagerman. “Thanks to this reputation, we are now poised to take a leading role in the country's de-carbonization and re-electrification priorities. The potential for strengthening our ties with the Institute, the state of Georgia, and federal entities is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Hagerman joins NEETRAC after directing the Energy, Policy, and Innovation Center (EPICenter), a division of the Strategic Energy Institute.


Prior to Georgia Tech, Hagerman served as a section head at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He also has served as the deputy chief scientist of the ;National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and as a senior policy advisory at the U.S. Office of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

“As NEETRAC prepares for the next phase of its journey, Joe's passion, visionary approach, and bridge-building abilities will be indispensable for success,” said Arijit Raychowdhury, professor and Steve W. Chaddick School Chair in ECE. “His policy work and technical expertise in grid systems speak for themselves, especially regarding emerging areas like renewables, connected equipment, and cybersecurity. I’m thrilled to have Joe leading the way.”

The Right Time for Growth

The domestic demand for electricity continues to steadily rise because of the government's ambitious renewable and carbon-free energy objectives, the increased electrification of transportation and heating, and the growing demand for digitally connected devices.

Add this to an aging power grid, and incentives and investments for making the grid stronger and more resilient are at an all-time high for the electric power industry.

Hagerman looks to leverage his governmental research reputation and knowledge of the Georgia Tech landscape to enhance NEETRAC's existing strengths and explore new opportunities. He seeks to establish new connections — both inside and outside of the Institute — for the center, enabling it to effectively drive innovation and address the evolving needs of the industry.

“The power grid stands as a remarkable feat of human engineering, and its sheer physical scale is incredible,” said Hagerman. “Incorporating changes is not as simple as flipping a switch. It requires extensive knowledge and countless hours of rigorous testing. Thankfully, NEETRAC and Georgia Tech possess an abundance of expertise — and a world class staff — that can be harnessed to navigate these challenges successfully.”

An Invaluable Industry Resource

For more than 25 years, NEETRAC — located just south of the Atlanta campus, near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — has played a vital role in facilitating collaboration between the electric energy industry and academia.

Everything connected to the power grid — even power poles to bucket trucks — can be tested and researched at the center. NEETRAC’s experienced engineers and technicians seek to deliver innovative, effective solutions to all problems related to the transmission and distribution of electric energy.

As a membership-supported center, NEETRAC's member companies comprise utilities that represent around 65% of U.S. electric customers, along with manufacturers who contribute significantly to the products and services offered in the electric utility industry.

“NEETRAC is much more than a testing laboratory to us,” said Sherif Kamel, vice president of New Product Development at Southwire, a NEETRAC member organization. “The deep knowledge and expertise that NEETRAC uses to support our industry’s needs is unparalleled.”

This diverse membership base promotes collaboration and knowledge exchange, keeping NEETRAC at the forefront of industry challenges, advancements, and opportunities.

Sherif, NEETRAC's advisory board chair and a member of the search committee that recommended Hagerman, stated that NEETRAC's staff and facilities aid Southwire in developing, improving, and supporting customers. Additionally, the center enhances the credibility and proficiency of the company's test results. Southwire was founded in 1937 by Roy Richards, a graduate of Georgia Tech, and is a NEETRAC founding member.

Future Potential

Hagerman stressed that with so much uncertainty regarding the future of the domestic power grid, one thing is clear: To evolve NEETRAC will need to enhance its relationship with the industry and scale to help its current and future members throughout North America.

“There’s excitement in not knowing how everything will unfold,” he said. “It’s important for us to be nimble and ready to adapt, but to also use our position to anticipate the needs of our members and provide value and insights to our partners.”

According to Hagerman, the future services of NEETRAC could be driven by several important factors, namely the integration of renewable energy sources, ensuring the security of the grid both in physical and cyber aspects, and harnessing the power of big data.

Investing and expanding in the expertise of NEETRAC's skilled scientists and engineers, its technical staff, and its administrative staff is arguably the most crucial approach to meeting the uncertain demands of the future.

“By nurturing the talents and skills of the team and by incorporating an inclusive approach, we all work toward the shared future of NEETRAC and the Institute. We are all one Georgia Tech,” said Hagerman. “NEETRAC’s role in that future is defined by its cutting-edge evaluations, its world class research, and its continued support of innovation for a resilient and secure domestic power grid for all.”

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Dan Watson