Improved Electrical Transmission Systems In Arkansas Costing Millions

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 12:00 am  

By mid-2014, both Southwest Power Pool and MISO will have upgraded Arkansas’ electrical transmission systems with sophisticated “second-day” transmission markets, a move that is intended to save ratepayers millions of dollars.

But in the meantime, the utilities and the transmission operators are spending huge amounts of capital and man-hours on the upgrade process.

In particular, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. of Little Rock, which serves about 500,000 mostly rural customers across 17 cooperatives, generates power through the lines of both SPP and Entergy Arkansas Inc.

And because, back in 2011, Entergy chose MISO, or the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc., as a regional transmission operator rather than Little Rock’s SPP, the cooperative group is now in the unique and difficult position of figuring out how to integrate both transmission operators’ markets.

“There are other utilities that have load or generation into two markets simultaneously,” said Keith Sugg, vice president of integration at AECC. “But the thing that makes AECC unique with respect to these markets is joining two of them, in essence, at the same time.”

The upgraded markets, essentially, are supposed to increase the efficiency of transmission markets, in which operators can purchase and use generation in real time. (See more about the market here.)

An exact dollar amount the process has cost wasn’t available, but Sugg said it’s certainly in the millions.

For a bit of perspective: Although Entergy Arkansas is only integrating MISO’s market — SPP does not operate any of Entergy’s lines — it’s still been a huge process for that company. According to Entergy testimony filed with the Arkansas Public Service Commission, the integration has so far cost Entergy $31 million over two years and will be completed in December.

So either transition job alone would have been difficult.

The two are similar but different in ways subtle enough that special training has been necessary from both groups.

“You can’t exactly interchange them,” Sugg said. “Some of the rules are a little different, but they are conceptually the same.”

‘Something of a Challenge’

 

 

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