Exec Q&A: Nick Brown, President and CEO of Southwest Power Pool

Nick Brown, a native of Hope, heads Southwest Power Pool. SPP is building a 150,000-SF headquarters near the intersection of Kanis Road and Chenal Parkway and vigorously challenging Entergy Corp.'s decision to join MISO, the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, rather than SPP when its system agreement expires in 2013.

What's the status of your new construction in west Little Rock?

The construction of our new campus is on schedule and on budget, and I couldn't be more pleased with the work of our architect, Witsell Evans Rasco, and our general contractor, Nabholz. We'll begin moving equipment into one of the buildings in six weeks or so and will occupy the campus next June.

Entergy chose Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator over Southwest Power Pool as the replacement for its system agreement. Can you summarize your argument that SPP would be a better choice for Entergy? And why it would be better for Entergy's ratepayers?

We agree with Entergy that membership in a Regional Transmission Organization has benefits for its customers and, based on an independent study performed under the direction of Entergy's retail regulators and funded by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, there are more benefits to Entergy and its customers by joining SPP versus MISO. Additionally, there will be no negative impacts on neighboring systems with Entergy participation in SPP versus significant operational and equity issues with Entergy participation in MISO due to the use of SPP transmission facilities for this integration and operation. Lastly, no special transition period or zoning will be required for integration of Entergy into SPP.

FERC has agreed with MISO that it can use SPP lines in order to incorporate Entergy. Why did that ruling not settle the question?

While FERC agreed with MISO's interpretation of the existing agreement to use SPP lines to integrate Entergy, it also ordered a renegotiation of that agreement due to this potentially significant event. SPP will require significant compensation for the use of its members' facilities. Also, SPP will be seeking a rehearing on the FERC order.

What are the three biggest issues facing the electric utility industry, including SPP and other grid operators?

The biggest issues include meeting new emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, building a more robust transmission network to facilitate more supply options for our members, and aging infrastructure - all very expensive problems.

What is the status of the power grid infrastructure in Arkansas and the U.S.?

Our infrastructure is highly reliable in meeting reliability needs, but woefully inadequate in meeting economic needs in facilitating more supply options. Simply put, we're asking the network to perform in ways that it was never designed for with respect to the operation of our wholesale power markets that strongly promote efficiencies.