WECC survey shows reliability improvement by Western entities

The results of the second annual survey of entities across the Western Interconnection conducted by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) show that transmission owners and operators, generation owners and operators, transmission planners and balancing authorities are making progress implementing the recommendations from a joint FERC/NERC report following the 2011 Southwest outage, but that more work remains to be done.

WECC instituted the voluntary annual survey in 2012 in response to the joint FERC/NERC report as a way to review operating practices and to assess the issues that contributed to the outage. The overall objective of the survey is to identify processes, best practices and areas of concern associated with specific reliability related operational practices, and to then compare those practices across years.

The joint FERC/NERC report, issued in 2012 after an eight-month investigation, blamed the blackout on inadequate planning and system visibility and included 27 recommendations to improve system operations. Those included recommendations that transmission operators and balancing authorities improve their next-day, seasonal, and near- and long-term planning procedures. It also recommended that bulk power system operators improve their situational awareness through improved communication, data-sharing and the use of real-time tools.

The survey was issued in May to 280 balancing authorities, transmission owners, transmission operators, generation owners, generation operators, transmission planners, and planning coordinators across the Western Interconnection. WECC received 157 responses, with approximately 80% of balancing authorities, transmission planners, transmission operators and transmission owners responding. Approximately 60% of generation owners and generation operators responded.

The survey assessed six general subject areas, including next-day studies, seasonal studies, situational awareness, protection systems, angular separation and other general operational issues related to reliability.

Results of the 2013 survey released Aug. 19 showed improvement among entities in the Western Interconnection when compared to the 2012 survey. For example, transmission operators are conducting next-day studies with more of them sharing those next-day studies through the WECC website. In addition, the number of entities that included planned outages as part of their seasonal studies significantly increased.

Other improvements include changes and upgrades to hardware and software, such as installing redundancy in servers, reevaluating all sites to ensure protection equipment is optimized for best protection, reevaluating sub-100-kV facilities and updating of real-time tools. The survey also showed increased communication between the transmission operators and the WECC reliability coordinator regarding planned outages, relay settings, and loss of real-time tools.

The survey also identified areas of concern, including a lack of coordination between the generation operators and transmission operators regarding next-day studies and a lack of coordination of seasonal studies among neighboring transmission operators.

The survey also noted no improvements in the number of entities utilizing real-time tools for real-time contingency analysis (RTCA), using post contingency mitigation plans, or sharing of relay settings.

The entities participating in the survey made a number of recommendations including providing feedback from lessons learned, comparing results with interconnected neighbors, promoting more coordination between the reliability coordinator and entities for studies, improving the consistency of next-day studies, and increasing WECC’s involvement to avoid members’ duplication of processes and efforts, according to the survey.

To address those areas of concern and promote best practices, WECC staff will review the most recent results with WECC member groups and committees including the next-day study task force to analyze and find ways to improve the reliability of the Western Interconnection. Potential methods could include the development of appropriate solutions, additional training in noted areas, development of guidelines for post contingent and next-day studies, and holding webinars on specific issues, according to the survey.

WECC is currently in the process of developing a timeline and next steps for the new outreach efforts, a WECC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 23.