Planners should focus on more than just meeting NERC reliability standards.
Eric Hirst and Brendan Kirby are consultants in electric industry restructuring, based in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Their work appears frequently in Public Utilities Fortnightly and focuses on bulk-power issues related to reliability, ancillary services, generation and transmission adequacy, real-time balancing operations and markets, and price-responsiveness of demand. This article was developed as part of a project on transmission planning conducted for the Edison Electric Institute (See, E. Hirst and B. Kirby, Transmission Planning for a Restructuring U.S. Electricity Industry, E.E.I., Wash., D.C., June 2001).
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) envisions a future U.S. electricity industry that will include large organizations to plan and expand regional transmission systems on a broad scale. This shift—from individual utilities seeking to meet the needs of their customers, to regional transmission organizations (RTOs) planning to meets the needs of markets—raises important issues:
1. The Planning Objective (reliability vs. commerce).
2. Alternative Investments (adding local generation or reducing load).
3. Effects on Land Use.
4. New Technology (new solid-state technologies permit operation of transmission systems closer to thermal limits).
5. Elusive Data (uncertainty over future load growth and power plant construction makes it difficult to estimate costs and benefits).
6. Congestion Costs (their role in deciding which projects to build).