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Implementing Transmission Access: Getting the Genie Out of the Bottle(neck)

Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1995

costs and foregone opportunities.

Nevertheless, before EPAct, most industry participants attained a reasonable familiarity with flow magnitudes, directions, and durations impressed on various components of power transmission systems. Of course, those actual patterns vary continually, and sometimes unpredictably (em especially as end-user demands vary daily, weekly, seasonally, and annually.

For example, heaviest loadings on some network parts do not necessarily occur contemporaneously with greatest end-user demand. Sometimes during high-load periods, the native utility may have to bring different generation on line than it usually uses (em perhaps some older, more costly to run, units located closer to urban loads for voltage support or other reasons. Such actions can actually decrease flows in parts of the grid that might otherwise have experienced greater flows (em or perhaps even cause flows in a different direction. These effects were generally handled with ease because the integrated power system "grew up" that way over a long period of time.

Hence, in the business-as-usual case, much of the benefit obtainable from transmission systems stems from a design tailored to serve historical sources and sinks economically, to maintain latent flexibility, and (em to the extent still present (em to sustain reserve capacity to prevent and ride through outages of various kinds. To these ends, power industry participants can lay claim to a large base of experience, with ready access to technical and economic information as well as data on actual and forecasted usage.

Such public domain disclosures currently include reports to organizations such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, state regulators, and the financial community, covering hourly loads, size and composition of transmission lines, terms and conditions of wheeling contracts, and fuel-cost and operating efficiency of utility-owned generating plants. This material allows third parties to independently conduct investigations that range from detailed power flow and production cost analyses to simulation of future financial results via corporate models.

But business isn't "usual" any more.

Today there exist many alternative power production and delivery "worlds," and they can change technical transmission access and usage characteristics in six different ways:

s generation siting

s generation dispatch

s transmission system physical makeup

s transmission component deployment

s wheeling patterns

s transmission investment, usage measurement, accounting, and payment.

Let's start with market-driven pools.

Market-Driven Pools

This idea implies arrangements that go beyond current power pooling practices. Market-driven pools allow virtually all "power sources" (that is, providers of generation, wheeling, and load modification) to compete to serve the load as an aggregate. The lowest-priced sources are then selected to participate at any one time. Of course, bilateral contracts can also be allowed to proceed simultaneously (em creating conditions somewhere between complete pooling and a bilateral contracts-only situation.

That blended possibility aside, one can say that in general, for short-term time horizons, there are no significant unsolved technical problems to stymie market-driven pools. Moreover, because of the system's built-in flexibility, changes in technical deployment of existing controllable transmission components will not likely restrict this market-based pool scenario. Rather, future developmental challenges could arise.

Historical industry goals have centered on optimal planning of both the generation