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OASIS: Networking on the Grid
Despite a recent delay, the stage
appears set for online trading
in electric transmission capacity.
THIS IS ONLY A TEST (EM FOR NOW.
But come January, if all goes well, the OASIS program will start up in real time, with customers venturing onto the Internet to place reservations for capacity on the nation's electric transmission grid.
For a decade that began with industry opposition to open transmission, the change is remarkable. Open access? Just say "node."
The test begins December 2, 1996, as hundreds of utilities begin marketing transmission capacity on an experimental basis through their Open-access Same-time Information System (OASIS). It's the real-time startup for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 889, issued last spring, and for a "new era" for transmission providers and marketers. The order requires utilities to provide transmission customers with electronic access to available capacity, tariffs, and other information.
The test was slated to begin November 1, but in late September the FERC delayed the startup for a month to allow transmission owners, OASIS vendors, and others to respond to changes proposed by the "How Working Group," and a subsequent FERC order issuing revised standards and protocols. See, OASIS and Standards of Conduct, FERC Dkt. No. RM95-9-000, Sept. 20, 1996 (Order Granting Request for Extension of Time).
Many utilities had supported the request for an extension, including Centerior, El Paso Electric, Salt River Project, and Tucson Electric. So did Electric Clearinghouse, Inc. and Enron Power Marketing, Inc., but those two also opposed any move by the FERC to delay implementation of standards of conduct. Meanwhile, Siemens Power Systems Control and ISSC, Inc. had announced on September 10 that, one way or another, they expected to be ready to meet or exceed the FERC's Phase I OASIS requirements by November 1. They said they didn't see any benefit in the postponement (em either for utilities or for vendors ("solution providers") trying to get a jump on the market.
Technology: A Set of Unknowns
While it aims to increase competition and lower consumer prices by as much as $5.4 billion annually, OASIS raises questions.
For instance, OASIS will mark the first time that transmission service providers must calculate available transmission capacity (ATC) and total transmission capacity (TTC).
Some unknowns will likely be resolved by the FERC when it begins to tackle phase two. Others require tests of the technology and of the front- or back-room processes that kick in once a user, via the Internet, determines if capacity is available.
This is how Norris Peterson of Cegelec ESCA Corp. describes OASIS in action: A customer requests a seat on your "airline" from one point to the next. There are dozens of waypoints. Her request is affected by thousands of other customers asking for a seat (em simultaneously. And unfortunately, customers may only be making reservations, like they did on nine other "airlines," to get the best price at the right "departure" time.
That's not all.
Once a request for a transmission reservation comes in over an OASIS system, what does a provider do with it? So far, those working