Wind interests call BPA request for clarification delay tactic

Wind interests in the Pacific Northwest were quick to respond to the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) request for clarification of a FERC order that found BPA’s wind curtailment in the spring of 2011 discriminatory.

Wind interests told TransmissionHub on Jan. 9 there was little to clarify, and characterized BPA’s filing as a delay tactic.

FERC on Dec. 7, 2011 issued an order requiring BPA to revise its open access transmission tariff, which the commission found discriminated against wind generators.“This is an important decision because it is the first

time FERC has had to explore the rule for dispatching different kinds of generation on a nondiscriminatory basis when there is inadequate transmission capacity or load on the system,” an industry lawyer told TransmissionHub. “It’s an important issue for the further development of renewable generation resources.”

BPA on Jan. 6 requested clarification of the order.

The Pacific Northwest groups said BPA had numerous options available that it didn’t take when it curtailed wind power and supplanted it with hydropower from federal dams.

“Bonneville[’s system] is not that constrained; it just costs money to access other options,” Rachel Shimshak, executive director of Renewable Northwest Project, told TransmissionHub. The question then becomes who should pay for it, she continued.

Renewable Northwest Project has recommended strategies and market mechanisms that will allow the system to be more flexible, Shimshak said. Accessing water storage in Canada rather than allowing an unrestricted flow in the Columbia River, allowing “a bit more water” over the spillways, making use of market mechanisms like negative prices, putting in place advanced agreements that would have fossil fuel generators ramp down during times of oversupply, are all things BPA can and should be doing before resorting to curtailment, Shimshak said.

A spokesperson for wind producer Iberdrola told TransmissionHub that “FERC ruled for economic reasons” and that BPA’s action was “clearly and purely economic.”

At the time of the curtailment, tie lines were open to California and British Columbia, where BPA could send and store power, but which were not used, the Iberdrola spokesperson claimed.

In its Dec. 7 order, the commission determined that BPA’s environmental redispatch policy did not provide comparable transmission service and ordered Bonneville to file tariff revisions that will provide for transmission service to power generators that “are not unduly discriminatory or preferential.”

“FERC’s point is, if you have transmission congestion, you can’t relieve it on the back of the wind power alone; you have to be willing to dispatch off other forms of generation as well, on a nondiscriminatory basis,” the industry lawyer said.

In its request for rehearing, BPA said the commission’s order did not give Bonneville needed guidance in several areas. “[T]hus, Bonneville is uncertain as to the meaning and scope of the Order,” BPA said, requesting clarification or, if needed, rehearing of parts of the order.

In its Jan. 6 request, BPA listed six issues for which it seeks clarification or rehearing, including whether FERC has jurisdiction to review BPA’s environmental redispatch policy. BPA asserted that jurisdiction rests with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a news release on the topic, BPA Administrator Steve Wright said, “Bonneville will continue its efforts to comply with its obligations as it develops and considers a single solution that satisfies them all.”

As penetration of renewable energy increases, scenarios of oversupply are becoming more common. On Jan. 10, Czech power grid operator CEPS said its power grid was repeatedly and “more frequently” overloaded with unscheduled flows of electricity caused by renewable energy from Germany, jeopardizing the security of the network and highlighting the need to reinforce its transmission infrastructure.