Two regional power transmission organizations with a significant presence in Little Rock — Southwest Power Pool and Midcontinent Independent System Operator — announced Monday that they'll partner in a major yearlong study of how to increase efficiency and decrease costs in areas where their boundaries interconnect.
The project drew immediate praise from renewable energy groups, including the American Wind Energy Association, the Clean Grid Alliance and the Advanced Power Alliance.
The not-for-profit regional transmission organizations, which coordinate the power grids and power markets in vast swathes of middle America, will focus on "the lack of transmission at requested connection points" along the borders between the grids — areas known in the industry as "seams" — according to Barbara Sugg, president and chief executive officer for Southwest Power Pool of Little Rock. “Working together, MISO and SPP can target those areas where there are mutual benefits on both sides of our seams,” she said in a company statement.
The study will examine potential benefits to interconnection customers and end-use consumers of both MISO of Carmel, Indiana, and SPP, which have an existing joint operating agreement on reliability issues, but not the "simultaneous evaluation of benefits, or allocation of cost, to both load and interconnection customers," according to a news release.
“Our member companies and stakeholders have told us that we need a better solution that prioritizes projects that address these gaps,” said MISO CEO John Bear. “Collaborating in this way gives us the opportunity to explore potential improvements within our own interconnection processes while informing longer-term regional transmission planning efforts in both MISO and SPP.”
Each RTO’s existing interconnection processes will continue as planned, and the new study will need eventual approval from the boards of both RTOs before fully proceeding. The study is expected to begin in December with a series of joint stakeholder meetings and informational updates.
MISO oversees the grid in 15 U.S. states and Manitoba, the Canadian province, with more than $29 billion in annual energy transactions. SPP manages the grid and wholesale energy market in 14 states, coordinating power across 56,000 miles of high voltage lines.
Meanwhile in Washington, the Wind Energy Association and electricity alliances applauded the joint study, hailing both organizations "for agreeing to move forward on a significant joint transmission planning effort." The renewable energy lobby groups called it an effort to identify transmission projects on and across the "seams" where the two systems intersect.
"This initiative will lead to consumer savings, greater reliability, and increased access to existing low-cost, clean, renewable resources, as well as resources in the interconnection queues of both regions," the AWEA said in a statement.
"This joint effort by MISO and SPP could be a gamechanger and is a new milestone in coordination between them, their Boards and executive leadership, and state regulators and other stakeholders," said a joint message from AWEA Central Region Electricity and Transmission Director Daniel Hall; Clean Grid Alliance Executive Director Beth Soholt; and Advanced Power Alliance Senior Vice President for Infrastructure and Markets Steve Gaw.
"Working together, the two Regional Transmission Organizations can enable and expedite needed transmission development on their seam and address related generation interconnection challenges. Transmission is a critical component of developing wind and other renewable energy resources and delivering clean, affordable power where and when it is needed most. Coordinated transmission planning will allow consumers across the country to harness the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy.
"This forward-thinking partnership includes an aggressive, but achievable timeline and we pledge to provide any assistance necessary to support this effort. Our organizations have been advocating on these issues for some time through the stakeholder process and we are hopeful today’s action will be part of a broader concerted effort to modernize and strengthen the national grid for the benefit of consumers.”