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SPP Highlights Progress in Western Grid Expansion

3 min read

Southwest Power Pool, the electric grid operator based in Little Rock, announced several milestones in its western expansion this week.

The regional transmission organization, which officially became a power grid reliability coordinator for the nation’s Western Interconnection in 2019, said that it made significant advances in three of its western services in the first two weeks of November.

Those services are its operation of the Western Resource Adequacy Program, known as WRAP, on behalf of the Western Interconnection; its Markets+ program, a proposed bundle of day-ahead and real-time market services; and the expansion of its regional transmission role in the Western Interconnection.

A key element of the Western Power Pool’s resource adequacy program became operational on Nov. 1. SPP is the program operation responsible for the program’s design. The WRAP produced updated forecasts each season to predict whether grid participants will have sufficient electric power resources. It also lets entities with a deficit to secure more resources. The WRAP operations program is non-binding for now, meaning that no financial charges or deficiency payments are applied, but it is fully functional, enhancing system reliability, the not-for-profit company said.

Casey Cathey, SPP’s senior director of grid asset utilization, led SPP’s effort as the WRAP program’s operator. “SPP is grateful for our partnership with Western Power Pool and the opportunity to help assure resource adequacy for their member utilities,” Cathey said in a news release. “We understand the importance of both resource adequacy and regionalization, and are proud of the work we’ve done to advance both causes for WRAP participants.”

A week later, on Nov. 7 and 8, SPP employees convened meetings of two committees essential to its Markets+ program: its Markets+ Participant Executive Committee and the Interim Markets+ Independent Panel. They are developing the rates, terms, conditions and protocols for governing the proposed day-ahead market. The committees reviewed and approved “significant portions of draft tariff language developed collaboratively by participant-led working groups over the preceding weeks.”

The tariff language defines how Markets+ will address transmission use, congestion management, transmission capacity obligations, market manipulation and confidentiality.

Antoine Lucas, SPP’s vice president of markets, is overseeing development and launching of Markets+. “The degree of collaboration and consensus that’s been required to develop this volume of tariff language this quickly is tremendously encouraging,” he said in the release. “SPP and the Markets+ participants are striking a remarkable balance between speed and meaningful consideration in developing a market that works for all stakeholders. We’re proud to have made such significant progress this week and approved large sections of the Markets+ tariff with no opposition.”

The participant executive committee includes representatives of all organizations who executed agreements to participate in Markets+ development, and they report to the three-person independent panel. SPP and the Markets+ participants intend to file the Markets+ tariff with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the first quarter of 2024. They expect a go-live date in the third quarter of 2026, the release said.

SPP kicked off its RTO territory expansion effort Nov. 9 in Denver. The goal is to stretch its RTO footprint into the Western Interconnection by April 2026.

SPP hosted utilities who have committed to joining the SPP RTO and presented its plan to coordinate the utilities’ integration into SPP’s planning, reliability coordination, market and other services over the next 28 months.

Bruce Rew, SPP’s senior vice president of operations, is the point man for the RTO expansion. “After years of negotiation and planning, SPP is excited to take our first official steps in the implementation of our plan to expand the RTO to the west,” he said. “We’re eagerly looking forward to the day that these plans come to fruition and we have the opportunity to bolster grid reliability, bring efficiency to planning processes, and leverage the full potential of a single interregional market across two interconnections.”

SPP first announced its collaboration with western utilities to study the benefits of western RTO expansion in November 2020. Studies have shown an expected $49 million in annual savings for those utilities as a result of RTO expansion, the release said.

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