Most electric utilities have invested heavily in building private telecommunications networks. In fact, U.S. utility telecommunication networks combine to form the largest private network, second...
Implementing Transmission Access: Getting the Genie Out of the Bottle(neck)
In tales of old, it was just a matter of finding the bottle, rubbing it the right way, and VOILA! (em out came the genie to grant our wishes. But that myth hasn't worked to fully open up transmission (em at least not to date. Some say the devil is in the details, but these details are truly devilish. They've proven more difficult to resolve than some of the real power-flow "bottlenecks" that can occur on the transmission system.
It might have been challenging enough to grow transmission access and usage if access was the only significant new entitlement granted by the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct). However, EPAct also accelerated the growth of power marketers, brokers, and exempt wholesale generators, not to mention the multitude of public and private reform proposals (em including industry restructuring, retail wheeling, electricity futures contracts, and regional transmission groups. All are dependent in some way on transmission access.
Any proper evaluation of new industry features must involve an understanding of, and sensitivity to, the important technical factors implicit in implementing transmission access. First, there are choices to be made, concerning:
s market-driven pools
s bilateral contracts
s financial instruments
s wheeling charges.
These choices, in turn, include technical factors such as:
s power system planning
s real-time operations
s after-the-fact activities
s data on all of the above.
These technical factors suggest ways in which engineering-based solutions might relieve some of the decisionmaking bottlenecks and eventually increase potential benefits from transmission access and use.
One final qualifier. My intent is not to comment on pros and cons of specific industry concepts or proposals of others, or anticipate or presuppose their ultimate disposition. Many of these ideas have yet to be described with the level of detail necessary for full acceptance or implementation. In any case, actual practices will likely continue to vary (em sometimes significantly (em with time, and between jurisdictions.
That said, let's take a "business as usual" case as our point of departure.
Business as Usual
Historically, electric utilities planned and operated their transmission facilities to serve native load from fairly local generation sources. When generation was remotely located (mine-mouth plants, for example), longer-distance transmission was constructed (em sometimes owned by adjoining utilities if expedient. With the emergence of formal power pooling, or recognition of ad hoc coordinated planning and operations benefits in certain areas, some transmission facilities were jointly owned and/or used to minimize total cost for two or more utilities (em taking into account some anticipated level of power trading.
Regardless of the situation (em power pooling or ad hoc coordination (em the basic power system design criteria often dictated that utilities should, if possible, build and maintain enough transmission capacity to allow any reasonable combination of generating units (and economic wheeling transactions) to be dispatched for lowest cost at essentially any time. However, for a number of reasons (em such as rising cost pressures, transmission siting difficulties, and development of some nonutility plants not in the utility's own plan (em a growing number of physical transmission bottlenecks have surfaced, spawning congestion