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E&E News: Western U.S. Grid Plan Could Remake Renewables

Posted by Edward Klump on Jul 2, 2021

E&E News summarized potential plans for RTO expansion in the west, quoting AEE’s Amisha Rai. Read snippets below and the full article here.

Stronger grid collaboration may finally be within reach for the western U.S., offering to reshape how wind and solar power is shuttled from state to state in the era of decarbonization.

But installing a regional transmission organization, or RTO, across Western states isn't a sure thing, despite signs of momentum from Oregon to Washington, D.C.

An organized Western market has long been under discussion by U.S. grid planners and advocates, and experts say this is a critical time to find out what's possible. The Biden administration has endorsed the goal of a decarbonized national power sector by 2035, as well as proposed an infrastructure package that could bolster U.S. transmission. Recurring grid issues across the country, including recent extreme temperatures in the West, also have put reliability and resiliency on the minds of consumers and politicians.

Eyes are on SPP after it announced last year it was considering RTO expansion to the west of its central U.S. base. At the same time, experts point to the California Independent System Operator as a vehicle that could evolve into a more regional grid organization...

As the debate continues, SPP is going down a path that could lead to a Western RTO expansion that's up and running as soon as 2024...

A wild card in any Western grid plan is California, where state regulators have ordered utilities to procure 11,500 megawatts of new power resources for future years.

California has been juggling the effects of wildfires, power demand and a changing resource mix given a state goal for a carbon-free power system by 2045. It's not clear when or if the California ISO could act as a full RTO for the broader West as it examines potential changes...

While uncertainty remains about a regional market, some Western states are taking action.

S.B. 448 in Nevada and S.B. 72 in Colorado both have provisions calling for utilities to join an RTO or organized market by 2030.

"Those two bills send a very strong signal," said Amisha Rai, managing director of Western states at Advanced Energy Economy.

Rai said what's needed in the West "is really the RTO of the future." That means protecting state authority and states' clean energy vision — while ensuring any actions are in the best interest of ratepayers, she said.

"We do know that regulators and decisionmakers and utilities in the other [Western] states are watching," she said. "Nothing happens in a vacuum, and that's a good thing."

Time will tell if anticipation turns into reality for a more coordinated Western grid in some way, but states and grid operators have the idea on their radar.

Read the full article here.

Topics: AEE In The News