For Order 1000 purposes, WestConnect will be a region

WestConnect will be a region for Order 1000 compliance purposes, but will still have subregional groups in order to be able to address each subregion’s uniqueness, Sue Henderson, manager of regional transmission planning for Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) and chair of the WestConnect planning strike team, said July 24.

“One of the major decisions we had to make with respect to Order 1000 was whether to remain a subregional group, whether we would have WestConnect as a region or [be] a combination thereof,” Henderson said during TransmissionHub’s webinar that was programmed and moderated by the WIRES Group, “Reshaping the Western Grid: Compliance with FERC Order No. 1000 in the West.”

She said, “We really have unique characteristics in those subregional groups and so we wanted WestConnect to be the Order 1000 region, but we would still have subregional groups within our structure so we can address their uniqueness within each of those areas.”

WestConnect is a combination of three subregional groups: Sierra, Southwest Area Transmission and Colorado Coordinated Planning Group.

WestConnect formed a planning implementation committee to make decisions on what provisions and requirements the region should go forward with in order to meet Order 1000 requirements, she said.

“WestConnect is fairly unique in the fact that this region is a combination of 10 nonjurisdictional entities and seven jurisdictional, so some of the provisions that we’re writing in with Order 1000 processes makes it so that everybody can comply with the order and participate within these planning process,” Henderson said. “It really has been a challenge for us but we are progressing and making great strides.”

The planning implementation committee decided to break out tasks into strike teams that could individually address governance, planning, cost allocation, compliance and communication issues for Order 1000 compliance, she said.

“What’s new to this planning management committee is … sector voting,” Henderson said. “Today it’s just transmission providers within the planning management committee [who can vote]. Post-Order 1000, we’re looking at having a broad stakeholder involvement within this and having sector voting, similar to other regions.”

For example, sectors could comprise transmission owners with load obligations, transmission customers, transmission owners and independent transmission companies, state regulators and key interest groups. “All of those groups have some type of voting right,” she added.

The planning strike team has reached consensus on several areas, including the planning cycle horizon, planning study platforms, public policy considerations, planning duration – which will move from annual to biennial – planning process methodology, criteria for project submittal, criteria for project evaluation and the development of the draft business practice manual.

Strike teams evaluating cost allocation, compliance

For reliability projects, the strike team responsible for cost allocation has developed a calculation that would entail a developer proving its project is more cost effective than what the local transmission owners’ plans call for, Henderson said.

“We think the order did define it well that cost allocation had to be commensurate with benefits,” she said. “For economic and congestion [projects], we’re using production cost modeling and a benefits to cost ratio of 1.25x or greater.”

WestConnect is also discussing the allocation of ownership and transfer capability. “We believe in WestConnect that if you’re paying for something, you should get something out of that,” Henderson said. “If costs are being allocated to your company, some type of ownership or transfer capability should go along with those costs.”

WestConnect also has to consider who approves the construction of projects. Given its makeup of jurisdictional and nonjurisdictional entities, the region determined that the selection of projects will be given to a nonjurisdictional board of directors and state regulators to determine which projects move forward and get built, Henderson said.

She also said that WestConnect is developing common language to be placed in transmission providers’ open access transmission tariff (OATT).

This article was updated at 12:41 p.m. on July 25 to correct that WestConnect is developing common language to be placed in transmission providers’ open access transmission tariff, not developing a single WestConnect OATT.


About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.