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The Geopolitics of the Grid

Is it really so important to preserve regional differences?

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2006

dispatch that respects both physics and economics—as practiced by the regional transmission organizations (RTOs) in the eastern U.S.

But if non-RTO regions such as those in the West are not more willing to move forward on balancing (or dispatch) services, what hope is there of developing a more efficient power grid that offers its services without bias to users? That is a question many are asking about the inequities in today’s grid.

FERC’s Role

FERC recently announced a technical conference in early 2007 on the issue of an electric utility's ability to benefit from an RTO or independent system operator’s regional markets, while avoiding some or all of the costs attributable to membership in the RTO or ISO. At a July 20 FERC meeting on the proposed RTO conference, outgoing Commissioner Nora Brownell said: “I was in the Midwest a couple of weeks ago. I think it’s not only financial free-riders, of whom there are, unfortunately, far too many, but there are reliability free- riders. ... They are particularly concerned about their neighbors at TVA who don’t share the transparency that the RTOs share. I think, whether or not the RTO model continues … everyone, whether a small or big player, needs to have the tools to provide the information necessary for both themselves, but also their neighbors.”