CAISO and PacifiCorp Shake Things Up
For those of us westerners working on decarbonizing the electricity system, the recent announcement that PacifiCorp is taking steps to join the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) literally rocked our world. PacifiCorp is one of the West’s largest utilities outside California (1.8 million customers in six western states). CAISO runs the vast majority of California’s grid (and a part of Nevada’s), balancing 65,000 megawatts of generation serving more than 30 million consumers. This is a very big deal.
The rapid rise of renewable energy resources in the West, despite impressive progress, has been hampered by an antiquated and balkanized grid management system. Thirty eight different “balancing area authorities” operate portions of the grid across “seams” between them, and energy transactions are largely driven by bilateral contracts instead of day ahead and real time energy markets.