ORIGINAL REPORTING: Western Power Providers Get Organized
Changing climate and electricity mix renew region-wide power market ambitions for the 'Wild West'; CAISO, SPP and other proposals seek billions in customer benefits by moving the region from real-time markets to a Western-wide RTO.
Herman K. Trabish, November 15, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Efforts to integrate Western states into unified power system continue methodically.
Competition for the benefits of operating a west-wide Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) power market is intensifying. A Western RTO could create "nearly $2 billion" of customer benefits in 2030, according to a July 30 Department of Energy (DOE)-commissioned study by Energy Strategies, by coordinating and optimizing power system economics and reliability across multiple jurisdictions, under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's authority.
In the West, the California Independent System Operator's (CAISO) real-time market is the most successful version of a Western regional market to date because it has attracted the most participants and produced the most benefits over its seven years of operation. But the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) real-time market went operational in February, challenging CAISO's dominance.
Though providing "only a subset of the services," these real-time markets are driving new ambitions by demonstrating "the scale of benefits" RTOs could offer, Energy Strategies said. Finally, an Xcel Energy-led Western Markets Exploratory Group (WMEG) of 11 power providers is "exploring" such opportunities, it announced October 5. The participating utilities control "about 60 GW load," which alone could be "a viable RTO," said Colorado State Sen. Chris Hansen (D). Hansen wrote Colorado Senate Bill 72, requiring state utilities to join an energy market by 2030, which passed June 24.
The WMEG's exploration, along with new CAISO and SPP proposals and a proposed Western Power Pool (WPP) capacity sharing program, "will immediately change the conversation," Hansen said. Previous Western RTO efforts have failed, but the climate crisis and new reliability needs are attracting competing approaches to capture all or a piece of this action. A single Western-wide RTO could provide as much as $569 million greater annual benefits than markets divided between competing system operators, Energy Strategies modeling found.
Replacing today's "inflexible" dispatch in 11 Western states with an RTO's optimized operations and avoided capacity costs could deliver up to $1.3 billion in annual benefits that would likely grow to almost $2 billion in 2030, Energy Strategies reported. Those efficiencies are needed "to reach President Biden's goal of a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035," DOE Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman said in a statement.
In the last two years, CAISO and SPP started planning interim day-ahead markets to move from their real-time energy imbalance markets (EIMs) to RTOs, Energy Strategies said. Day-ahead markets offer "optimized day-ahead unit commitment and real-time dispatch" but, unlike RTOs, they require fewer commitments from participants and less shared transmission management, it added… click here for more