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E&E News: Western Power Market Plan Would Reshape Grid Oversight

Posted by Jason Plautz on Apr 12, 2024

E&E News reports on the key takeaways from the highly anticipated West-Wide Governance Pathways Initiative proposed framework that could help create a new electricity market. The article quotes United's Brian Turner on the progress Nevada and Colorado are making in joining an RTO. 

Can Western states build an electricity market that includes California but isn't run by California?

That's the question an advisory group known as the West-Wide Governance Pathways Initiative is trying to answer with a new framework released this week. The initiative's straw proposal lays out a three-step process to spin an existing real-time electricity market out from under the oversight of California — and build it into a full regional transmission organization.

Doing so, supporters say, could generate more buy-in from utilities across the West and create a market that boosts reliability during extreme weather and allows for more production and transmission of renewable energy such as wind and solar.

On the move

The initiative’s report comes as utilities are weighing whether to align with EDAM or a competing proposal from the Arkansas-based Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

Earlier this month, staff at the Bonneville Power Administration — the nonprofit federal power marketing administration that distributes hydropower from 31 federal dams — recommended joining the proposed SPP market, in part because of concerns about whether a California-governed market would treat the administration’s members fairly.

EDAM has early commitments from several utilities, including Portland General Electric, Idaho Power and PacifiCorp.

At the same time, Nevada policymakers are pushing ahead with a state-mandated effort to set rules for how utilities can join an RTO. A state law passed in 2021 directs state utilities to join an RTO by 2030 in a bid to improve reliability during extreme weather and transition to more renewable energy.

A workshop hosted by the state Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday brought together power providers, California ISO officials, SPP representatives and other potential market participants from across the West to explore the creation of an RTO and what rules the state can put in place to facilitate the market and ensure that Nevada ratepayers get benefits. Nevada could develop rules for joining a market this year.

The rulemaking process for Nevada’s RTO requirement only started in January but is moving quickly, said Brian Turner, a director focusing on Western states for the clean energy group Advanced Energy United.

That, he said, stands in contrast to the rulemaking in Colorado, the other state directing utilities to join a market by 2030. In Colorado, Turner said, the rulemaking has been slower to develop and regulators have not held the same kind of public workshops.

The fact that market discussions — including from the Pathways Initiative — are moving so quickly, Turner said, makes those state rules important. Having regulations on what utilities need from an RTO on issues like greenhouse gas tracking, ratepayer costs or interconnection can help dictate how the Western market will look.

“It’s exactly when the markets are malleable that you want to offer your voice,” Turner said. “Once a market is set in stone or approved by FERC, there’s a binary choice to either join or not. We’d rather not be in the role of advising on a binary choice, we’d rather be in the role of shaping the direction of things.”

Topics: United In The News, Western RTO, Brian Turner