By Robert Mullin
Mountain West Transmission Group has said it will enter discussions with SPP to explore the possibility of joining the RTO.
The announcement comes eight months after Mountain West issued a request for information to CAISO, MISO, PJM and SPP regarding tariff administration and market operator services to support a new — and independent — organized market for the region. (See Mountain West RTO Could Pose Competition for CAISO.)
“By exploring membership with an existing RTO, the Mountain West participants would have the advantage of an existing electricity market design,” the group said in a statement issued Friday.
“We have enjoyed working with the Mountain West Transmission Group on preliminary analysis and look forward to the next phase of more detailed discussions on specific terms of membership in the SPP organization,” SPP CEO Nick Brown said.
An independent effort would put Mountain West in direct competition with CAISO’s plans to expand into the interior West through the possible inclusion of PacifiCorp as a member. SPP’s westward movement could have a similar impact on CAISO’s expansion.
Mountain West — a partnership consisting of seven different transmission-owning entities within the Western Interconnection, including the Western Area Power Administration’s Loveland Area Projects and Colorado River Storage Project — has been investigating the benefits of implementing a common transmission tariff across multiple states and developing an organized market.
Mountain West’s footprint covers most of Colorado and Wyoming, along with smaller areas of Arizona, Montana, New Mexico and Utah. WAPA operates nearly 5,000 miles of transmission lines within the area.
Other members of the group include Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Black Hills Energy, Colorado Springs Utilities, Xcel Energy’s Public Service Company of Colorado, Platte River Power Authority, and Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which together control about 11,000 miles of transmission.
“Participation in a regional market can provide operational efficiencies through economies of scale and increased opportunities to bring lower-cost renewables into our system,” Platte River CEO Jason Frisbie said.
“Like our decision to join SPP for our east-side power supply, this announcement reflects years of diligent work and analysis by our employees and the Mountain West team,” said Paul Sukut, CEO of Basin Electric.
Steve Beuning, Xcel’s director of market operations, said the discussions will be a “crucial step in evaluating the potential benefits of a regional energy market.” Xcel has been a strong advocate for an organized market in the interior West to improve integration of its generation portfolio heavy in wind resources.
Mountain West expects to reach a decision whether to join SPP by midyear and is targeting 2019 for market implementation, subject to stakeholder input and necessary approvals.
“While Mountain West is optimistic that an RTO may benefit its entire membership, each Mountain West participant will ultimately need to evaluate for itself whether potential membership makes sense,” the group said.
In the event that negotiations with SPP are unsuccessful, Mountain West could pursue similar discussions with MISO and PJM, the group said.