Thursday, October 12 (Washington, D.C.) — ACEG Executive Director Christina Hayes shared the following about her time at CREPC last week:
Ahh – it was good to be home(-ish)! I’m a longtime Oregonian, but I moved to D.C. nearly two decades ago to figure out how energy is deployed and regulated around the country. I wanted to see what other options were out there — and to bring best practices, or at least more choices, back home to the West.
I first started going to CREPC more than 10 years ago, at a time when my old home state utility commissioner, John Savage, ruled it as a benign autocracy. John had a vision for coordination throughout the West, which included working on the first draft of Western Renewable Energy Zones and participating in the earliest discussions about the energy imbalance market in the West.
Now a bustling forum, CREPC has recently become a place where serious discussions are held about the future of markets in the West, and the transmission conversation hangs over the proceedings. Multiple first drafts of various transmission efforts came to a head last week in Seattle:
- Regulators developed the Western States Transmission Initiative (WSTI), an effort to get a handle on priorities and principles for regional transmission development.
- We saw growing interest in regional solutions. The Western Power Pool-guided Western Transmission Expansion Coalition (WTEC) issued a concept paper “at the request of leadership by the Bonneville Power Administration” and in concert with utilities and stakeholders, providing a framework for developing a West-wide transmission planning process looking ahead 20 years.
- Longtime energy attorneys Ray Gifford and Matt Larsen from Denver continued to shop their proposal for transmission development based on a voluntary mechanism that would have utilities supply manpower to coordinate planning and then work with stakeholders and regulators.
These proposals have more commonalities than differences:
- They all agree that long-term transmission planning is needed outside of market discussions. While a market would enhance the efficiency of any transmission system, the market conversation has so many other challenges that transmission planning cannot wait until it is resolved. Transmission planning and development needs to happen sooner rather than later.
- Transmission planning needs to occur on a West-wide basis. The efficiencies of scale are greatest when considered across the West — not the Northwest or Southwest alone. There is no point in divvying up the regions for the purpose of transmission planning.
- The needs of the system are huge and changing. Everyone has a story about a crazy hot spell, a disastrous wildfire, or mountains of snow. Generation needs are high — so we need major transmission expansion to make it all work. A long-term plan is recognized by those at CREPC as essential.
The conversation is just getting started, but these concrete steps — regulators seeking to develop an investment-grade plan and utilities and stakeholders coming together to establish a framework for planning and building transmission — are a great start. ACEG will continue to support these efforts as the transmission dialogue progresses in the West.