Electricity Markets

BPA, WAPA exploring reliability coordinator options

The Bonneville Power Administration on Feb. 26 signed a letter of intent to explore receiving reliability coordinator services from the California Independent System Operator.

Meanwhile, the Western Area Power Administration said that two of its balancing authorities are considering the Southwest Power Pool for reliability coordinator services and a third WAPA balancing authority is considering both SPP and CAISO as potential providers for reliability coordinator services.

CAISO recently said that it will become its own reliability coordinator and offer services to other balancing authorities and transmission operators in the western U.S.

The ISO noted that it had given notice of its withdrawal to its current reliability coordinator, Peak Reliability, and to each of their funding members, effective September 2019.

The grid operator said that the reliability coordinator services it is contemplating will include outage coordination and day-ahead planning, in addition to real-time monitoring for reliability.

BPA explores reliability coordinator services options

The BPA said that the non-binding document it signed enables it to participate in CAISO’s stakeholder process as it forms its reliability coordinator service, helping BPA to reduce potential seams issues between the federal transmission system and those transmission customers who use BPA’s system to participate in that reliability coordinator.

BPA on Feb. 26 also signed a non-binding notice of withdrawal with its current reliability coordinator, Peak Reliability, effective as of Dec. 31, 2019. 

“Since every Balancing Authority and Transmission Operator (BPA is both) must have one and only one reliability coordinator, this action allows BPA to mitigate cost risks as it maintains the flexibility to evaluate all reliability coordinator options,” BPA said in a news release.

Peak Reliability has been the provider of reliability coordinator services for the western U.S. and portions of Mexico and Canada since 2014. With CAISO and other entities proposing to provide these services, BPA said it needs to consider what is best for reliability as well as the potential cost implications to its customers.

The letter of intent enables BPA to further evaluate more specifically whether the CAISO reliability coordinator is the best option for BPA and its customers, the federal power marketing administration said.

“The reliability of the federal transmission system in the northwest and the Western Interconnection are our principal concerns,” said Michelle Cathcart, vice president of Transmission Operations for BPA. “Our two actions today with CAISO and Peak RC will ensure we can maintain that reliability across our footprint as the region’s utility providers, including some of our customers, decide which path to pursue for reliability coordinator services,” she said.

 “These actions also help preserve our flexibility as we evaluate RC service providers in an effort to secure the most reliable solution that meets the unique requirements of our stakeholders and the region,” added Cathcart.

The function of a reliability coordinator is to have visibility of transmission operations and potential areas of conflict or congestion across multiple balancing authorities or transmission operators within a geographic region.

The use of a reliability coordinator is a mandatory compliance measure enforced by the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council as the regional enforcement entity.

 Actions do not prescribe future outcome

BPA said that the actions do not prescribe a future outcome for BPA and who it receives reliability coordinator services from.

During the formational period of the CAISO reliability coordinator, BPA will evaluate those services along with potential changes at Peak Reliability and other potential reliability coordinator providers to determine the best path forward for ensuring reliability and delivering value to the Northwest.

In order to sign the letter of intent with CAISO, BPA also signed a non-disclosure agreement specific to the internal operations and policies of the developing CAISO reliability coordinator. “BPA continues to work with CAISO to find additional flexibilities within the intent of that NDA to enable Bonneville to better serve customers who may be going through a similar process,” BPA noted.

In addition, BPA said that a decision on reliability coordinator services is not tied to participation in a western energy imbalance market like the CAISO EIM.

BPA said it continues to closely monitor the development of a western EIM and is exploring the possibility of joining such a market as another means of preserving the value of Northwest hydropower and transmission.

 WAPA eyes multiple options

Meanwhile, WAPA, which is also a PMA, on Feb. 26 said that it submitted notices of withdrawal for its three balancing authorities to depart Peak Reliability Coordinator, effective Sept. 2, 2019. 

WAPA’s Upper Great Plains West and Western Area Colorado Missouri BAs submitted letters of intent to receive reliability coordinator services from SPP beginning in fall 2019. WAPA’s Western Area Lower Colorado BA is considering both SPP and CAISO as potential providers for reliability coordinator services.

“Our balancing authorities cover an expansive area in the West,” said WAPA Administrator and CEO Mark Gabriel. “Each has unique circumstances and requirements that we will respect when seeking the best possible RC for our operations and our customers,” he said. “As we explore the best path forward for each of our BAs, the reliability of the grid will remain our top priority.” 

WAPA said the non-binding letters of intent enable WAPA’s BAs to evaluate more specifically which reliability coordinator option is best for its customers based on each BA’s particular situation. 

There are currently two reliability coordinators in the Western Interconnection: Peak RC and Alberta Electric System Operator, WAPA noted.

With CAISO and SPP now proposing to provide these services as well, WAPA said it needs to consider what is best for reliability as well as the potential cost implications to its customers. 

“These actions do not prescribe a future outcome for WAPA and its eventual RC providers. WAPA will evaluate SPP and CAISO RC services to determine the best path forward for ensuring reliability and delivering value to its customers,” WAPA went on to say.

Peak Reliability, PJM unit outline plans for Western energy markets

Peak Reliability and a PJM Interconnection subsidiary recently outlined the broad details of a plan to jointly launch new energy markets in the West in 2020.

At the same time, the Mountain West Transmission Group— six utilities and two WAPA projects (Loveland Area Projects and Colorado River Storage Project) — are contemplating joining SPP, and are currently involved in discussions to work out the terms of their participation. Along with the two WAPA projects, the group includes Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Black Hills, Colorado Springs Utilities, Platte River Power Authority, Xcel Energy's Public Service Co. of Colorado and Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Adding to the regional options, Peak and PJM plan to offer various services that utilities could pick from, including continued reliability coordination, plus the new market and balancing authority services, according to Todd Bessemer, PJM managing director for strategic development. Bessemer clarified that balancing authority services would not require balancing authority consolidation.

Utilities that use the Peak reliability coordinator or balancing authority services could also participate in the EIM or SPP markets, or choose not to join a market, Bessemer said.