As the FERC ponders RTO structure, California's incumbent PX defends its unique design.
The great California debate - what role and structure for a power exchange? - once again is rearing its head, this time on the national scene. The resurgence of interest in regional transmission organizations, or RTOs, spurred by the recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking[fn.1] issued in May by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, raises questions about the relationship between RTOs (designed primarily to manage grid operations) and power exchanges (seen as vehicles to facilitate trading).
The RTO NOPR raises two questions in this regard, the first of central importance to the FERC initiative, and the second one perhaps more tangential:
* Integrated or Stand-alone. Should an exchange operate as an integrated part of the RTO (grid manager), or instead carry out a wholly separate commercial and market function?
* Public vs. Private. Do exchanges represent public institutions necessary to facilitate open markets, subject to regulatory mandates, or are they private concerns, whose presence and sustenance is better left to their competitive prowess in the wholesale market?[fn.2]
After more than a year of market operation, we believe the California Power Exchange (CalPX) has proven a viable stand-alone institution, a critical element of California's restructured market and a valued source of price discovery that facilitates competition in Western wholesale markets. Its roots as a not-for-profit public benefits corporation have provided necessary credibility and neutrality to attract more than 60 participants from all over North America. Further, California's model is supported by the success of other commodity exchanges dedicated to serving their members' needs, independent of geography.