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Grid 2050

Shaping system transformation.

Fortnightly Magazine - August 2011

of existing assets capable of rapid load following and spinning reserve. However, here too, the potential to tap into dynamic resources outside the control area in a highly coordinated, near real-time basis is a very attractive option. A certain amount of this is enabled now, but not at the scale or temporal granularity that will be desired in the future.

A number of studies are underway to explore the potential for greater coordination among various control areas. In the Pacific Northwest, this is partly motivated by the relatively high penetration of wind generation (see Figure 2) . In the case of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) control area, current wind power capacity exceeds half of average load, and is projected by 2015 to be 40 percent greater than average load and more than 80 percent of peak load. Most of this wind power serves load outside of the BPA control area.

Despite the significant transmission capacity to major load centers in California, managing such high penetrations of variable renewable generation will be difficult within a single control area. Therefore, it’s important to increase coordination of operations with neighboring balancing areas, particularly for reliability services. Beginning in 2008, system operators in the Pacific Northwest formed a joint initiative that would, in part, explore a range of measures aimed at improving flexibility to address high ramp rates, and stochastic uncertainty in regional grid operations. Efforts are leveraging development of an efficient dispatch toolkit and an intra-hour transaction accelerator platform. However, major issues exist, such as differing operating regimes and criteria, schedule flexibility, ability to adequately address economics and reliability, and improving transmission access for non-firm transmission transactions.

Other studies are looking at potential benefits of increasing coordination of control areas in the Western Interconnect. 6 One major study, 7 to be completed next year, has reported interim results that suggest economic advantages exceeding $250 million from greater coordination and consolidation, and it’s expected that additional financial benefits will be identified as the study progresses. In another study, 8 the potential for wide-area coordinated dispatch of fast and slow storage resources in distant locations for providing grid regulation has suggested considerable advantage in sharing of such resources. Additional studies 9,10 either assume or require substantial control area coordination to accommodate the substantial penetration of wind power.

The key attribute of these studies is that closer coordination—perhaps even consolidation—of grid control areas, will be necessary to integrate such variable generation and take advantage of potential generation diversity, and to access available, under-committed assets in a neighboring control area. Because of the variable nature of these renewable generation sources, reliability will largely be associated with various ancillary services, which aren’t treated equally in various markets, and in many cases can be addressed optimally by reaching across multiple institutional jurisdictions.

Institutional Dilemma

Three decades of geographically diverse and sometimes contentious deregulation, policy adaptation, and exploration of alternative electric system enterprises have given rise to an array of different institutional environments for utility services. Beginning with deregulation of power generation and establishment of markets—first for power supply, then for