New Developments In CAISO And The Mountain West Transmission Group
While recent news stories focus on telecom and entertainment giants AT&T and Time Warner exploring a merger that could reshape their respective industries, electric utilities in the Western United States and Mexico are exploring their own economies and efficiencies that may come from participating in or establishing organized electric and transmission markets.
Last week, Mexico’s El Centro Nacional de Control de Energia (CENACE) announced that it is exploring linking its Baja California Norte grid to the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) energy imbalance market (EIM). Like other western utilities participating in CAISO’s EIM, it is projected that CENACE’s participation will enable it to save money and more readily achieve its renewable energy goals through access to a more geographically diverse market.
Shortly after CENACE’s announcement, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Balancing Authority of Northern California (BANC) announced that they, too, are exploring participation in CAISO’s EIM. SMUD management explained that participation in the EIM offered potential benefits related to integration of renewable generation and decreased reliance on gas-fired generation while furthering its efforts to collaborate with other California entities to achieve that state’s energy and environmental goals. Similarly, BANC concluded that EIM participation offered financial and operational benefits for some of its members and would be helpful in integrating increasing amounts of renewable generation.
If CENACE, SMUD, and BANC participate in the CAISO EIM, they will join existing EIM members NV Energy, Arizona Public Service, PacifiCorp, and Puget Sound Energy, with Portland General Electric and Idaho Power scheduled to join the EIM in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
While the CAISO EIM is expanding within California and beyond, utilities in other western states are considering a different approach to organized markets. The Mountain West Transmission Group (MWTG) is a collaborative effort among various entities in the WestConnect planning region designed to create a single transmission tariff within their collective footprint and to explore potential RTO market alternatives. Transmission owners participating in MWTG include: Basin Electric Power Cooperative; Black Hills Corporation and its affiliates Black Hills Power, Black Hills Colorado Electric, and Cheyenne Light Fuel & Power; Colorado Springs Utilities; Platte River Power Authority; Public Service Company of Colorado; Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association; and the Western Area Power Administration’s Loveland Area Projects and Colorado River Storage Project.