Meeting Transmission Challenges in the Rocky Mountain Region, a workshop held June 21 in Fort Collins, Colo., proved that "if you plan it, they will come."
Western brought together transmission customers, tribes, developers, state and Federal agencies and utilities to discuss Western's transmission planning and services and to discuss transmission challenges in the region.
The workshop included presentations from Western, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, Colorado Governor's Energy Office and Xcel Energy Services.
"There is need for transmission to support new generation across Western's 15-state service territory," said RM Contracts and Energy Services Specialist and workshop host Bob Langenberger. "But there are regulations, competing state needs and the question of where generation is built and the transmission to get it to market."
With several organizations and different interests represented, the workshop pointed out the common desire to develop interconnections to the transmission system. "It's important to come together, identify all those interests and find good investment solutions that best meet those desires, while maintaining the power grid's reliability," said Desert Southwest's Transmission Services Manager Ron Moulton.
Moulton recognized how important this meeting was for Western and its customers. He explained, "There's a considerable amount of energy needs in Western's service territory. It's important for us to understand customer needs and concerns to meet those needs in an environmentally-friendly and cost effective way."
Beyond the requirements
Holding the workshop satisfied the local transmission planning process requirements for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 890 as outlined in Western's Open Access Transmission Tariff. The OATT requires Western to conduct open public planning meetings where electric transmission stakeholders can comment and provide advice to help Western understand its customers' forecasted transmission needs. However, the workshop did more than meet requirements; it allowed Western to reach out to individuals and organizations across the board.
"This workshop gave us the opportunity to reach beyond our customers to a wide range of developers and other interested parties. We used this opportunity as a public outreach to help foster relationships we wouldn't normally get. We wanted developers to learn how to work with Western and this was our way of saying 'this is how you reach out to us,'" said Langenberger.
Participants were impressed with the amount of information packed into the workshop, and appreciated the Q&A session at the end.
Getting to know transmission services
Since Western is in the business of moving power as well as marketing it, it's important for the agency to proactively reach out to the public and let stakeholders know what is offered and how they can benefit from its services.
Transmission planning requires cooperation between organizations, including Western, to conduct the series of interconnection feasibility studies and evaluations. "The planning process takes time and coordination to develop an electric infrastructure that maintains reliability and meets network load growth and allows Western to continue to provide reliable, low-cost electric power," said Langenberger.
The workshop provided an overview of who Western is and its mission and perspective on building transmission interconnections. Attendees also walked away with a good understanding of how Western maintains reliable electric service, how it is currently improving the efficiency of electric system operations and its ability to support new investments in transmission infrastructure.
"I gained a broader understanding of Western's different business areas and what is involved in developing clean energy projects on the transmission system—that is, the criteria Western has to consider in going after new projects. It was also great to meet new people in the wind industry," commented Platte River Power Authority System Planning Engineer Jeremy Brownrigg.
Western's Transmission Planning Management Team presenters actively explained the agency's ability to address transmission system operations issues. "Our goal was to help attendees understand that Western is a player. [We're] a resource for achieving their transmission needs and a willing partner with a variety of ways to help them," Moulton commented.
Workshop a success
Workshop participants directed a variety of questions to presenters. Questions ranged from issues the entire industry is facing to the specifics of interconnection partnership guidelines, responsibility for costs and the consequences of dropping out of the transmission queue. The open dialogue session allowed for extremely informative conversations to develop. Even the presenters walked away from the conference with a broadened perspective.
Overall, the workshop provided an excellent opportunity to understand Western's mission and services, as well as information on how developers can benefit from Western's expertise and resources.
"Tri-State and Western have many common interests and I need to be apprised of Western's formal plans for transmission. I wanted to meet the people working with Western to fund, plan and develop wind projects. I got what I came for. I got to speak with Western employees and others about matters of mutual interest," commented Blane Taylor, a senior manager with Tri-State Generation and Transmission.
Didn't make it to the workshop?
The workshop presentations are available to answer your questions and concerns about transmission issues in the Rocky Mountain region. "We are committed to continually bringing the right people together," said Langenberger.
Download the presentations from the workshop.