At midnight on October 1, Heartland, Western Area Power Administration’s (WAPA) Upper Great Plains Region and Basin Electric Power Cooperative successfully transferred functional control of the Integrated System (IS) to Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and began operating in the regional transmission organization (RTO). This was the final step in achieving full membership in the RTO, a process that has culminated after years of discussions and public involvement between the IS members, SPP, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and customers.
“Heartland has been preparing for this transition for some time, and we are glad to finally see the process complete,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “This is a necessary step in ensuring we are providing the best possible service to our customers.”
SPP manages the electric grid and wholesale energy market for the central United States. As an RTO, the nonprofit corporation is mandated by FERC to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices. SPP integration will provide Heartland with greater flexibility and increased options for buying and selling power.
“We look forward to the opportunities operating within the SPP will provide,” Olson said.
Jointly owned by Heartland, WAPA and Basin, the IS covers a seven-state area and consists of over 9,300 miles of transmission line. With the inclusion of the IS, SPP’s footprint spans almost 575,000 square miles in all or parts of 14 states in the central U.S. and includes more than 800 generating plants, nearly 5,000 substations and about 56,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. The IS will add about 5,000 megawatts of peak demand and 7,600 megawatts of generating capacity, including a threefold increase in SPP’s current hydroelectric capacity.
The decision to integrate into SPP meant the IS would need to develop systems and tools to successfully operate in an RTO environment. Heartland turned to market services provider Tenaska Power Services to provide aid in all aspects of interfacing with SPP, including submitting demand bids and metering data to SPP, offering in Heartland’s generation and more.
“Tenaska’s partnership has been invaluable during the integration to SPP,” said Heartland Chief Operations Officer Nate Jones. “With their expert advice and knowledge, and the hard work of the operations staff at Heartland, we were well prepared for the transition. We still have many processes to refine, but overall Heartland would expect the SPP market to increase efficiency and price transparency in operations.”
The IS owners have studied several forms of potential RTO participation since the 1990s. Beginning in 2001, the IS participants began to evaluate potential options of joining SPP, joining the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or continuing operations on a stand-alone basis. These studies identified the option to join SPP as having the most benefit and the least risk. A public process began in November 2013 to hear comments from concerned parties, which resulted in approval to pursue membership in January 2014.
Western Area Power Administration annually markets and transmits more than 25,000 gigawatt-hours of clean, renewable power from 56 hydroelectric power plants owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 15 central and western states. WAPA also owns, operates and maintains a more than 17,000 circuit-mile, high-voltage transmission system in its service territory. It is part of the Department of Energy and represents the first federal power marketing administration to become a full RTO member. Learn more at www.wapa.gov.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative is a consumer-owned, regional cooperative headquartered in Bismarck, ND. It generates and transmits electricity to 138 member rural electric systems in nine states: Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. These member systems distribute electricity to about 2.9 million consumers. Learn more at www.basinelectric.com.