Overheard at the 8th Annual Transmission Summit West
SAN DIEGO — Transmission industry owners, operators, generators, regulators, financiers and other key players from the Western U.S. attended Infocast’s 8th annual Transmission Summit West last week. They discussed the strategic, regulatory, investment and technology issues facing the industry.
CAISO’s Stacy Crowley, vice president of regional and federal affairs, pushed the benefits of ISO participation in her solo presentation, saying, “Utilities and stakeholders have found these ISOs to be valuable, as far as providing cost-effective power.
“We know in the Midwest, states like Iowa could not have reached their renewable standards without an ISO. We’ve seen entities around the Northwest asking if there are efficiencies with a larger market. Clearly, a board appointed by the California governor and approved by the State Senate would not fly in a regional ISO. California clearly has the largest load of any state in the West, but a regional ISO must speak for everyone and their policies.”
ColumbiaGrid CEO Patrick Damiano agreed, but he made the case that coordinating planning doesn’t require a centralized market.
ColumbiaGrid conducts transmission planning and other coordination for its eight members: Avista, Bonneville Power Administration, Chelan County Public Utility District, Grant County PUD, Seattle City Light, Snohomish County PUD, Tacoma Power and Puget Sound Energy, which joined the Western Energy Imbalance Market on Oct. 1.
“The Northwest has always been an active bilateral market,” Damiano said.
“We’ve been very excited about the creation of the EIM,” said Gerald Deaver, manager of regional transmission policy for Xcel Energy. “Our first baby step was FERC’s approval of a joint dispatch area in Colorado [with Platte River Power Authority]. We’ll be the market operator, but we look at it as a way to more efficiently use generation resources in the balancing area. Our ultimate goal is to develop a larger geographic footprint to better integrate renewables. Our hope is that entities will become more comfortable operating in that environment.”
“I can’t imagine all of the West as we know it today would be one RTO. It’s too big. I see two or three RTOs with seams agreements,” SouthWestern Power Group’s Tom Wray said. “For resource management and market efficiency, [RTOs] are clearly a good policy move for the country. One of the motivating factors for expansion of the regional market we know as Cal-ISO is largely coming from regulatory pressure.”
Tanya Bodell, executive director of Energyzt, called for “market-based solutions” to cope with too much generation on the Western system. “West Texas retailers are selling energy for free on nights and weekends. FERC Order 745 has opened up an opportunity for demand to come into the market. I can see 745 creating a mechanism through which system operations encourage people and pay people to use more energy. Generators have a different bid price to operate, versus a bid price to curtail. You may end up getting a curtailment market, where the ISO asks for bids from generators.”
Renewable Integration Remains Sticky Issue
“We’ve done pretty well so far in integrating renewables. We didn’t think 20% would be that easy, but it turned out to be not so much of a challenge,” said Carl Zichella, director of Western transmission for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We have 38 different balancing authorities in the West. It’s one big grid operating in discrete chunks, rather than an integrated system. While that’s worked so far, we’re going to need to do much better to integrate deeper penetration of wind.
“The worst-case scenario for renewables is what we have now … [balancing authorities] complicating the use of transmission with bilateral contracts and artificial congestion. The biggest hurdle to regionalization is the governmental structure.”