WAPA region to pursue membership in SPP

The Upper Great Plains Region of Western Area Power Administration (Western) has decided to pursue formal negotiations for membership with the Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization.

Western Administrator Mark Gabriel said, “Based on the results of the Alternate Operations Study, the unique marketing and transmission footprint of Western’s-Upper Great Plains Region, as well as the responses received during the comment period, I am authorizing staff to move forward with the recommendation to pursue formal negotiations with SPP to make official membership possible. Western will be vigilant in these negotiations to ensure we comply with our legislated requirements and continue to provide reliable, low-cost, cost-based, hydro power to our preference customers consistent with sound business principles.”

Upper Great Plains Regional Manager Robert Harris added, “We appreciate the interest and support of our customers and others interested in this process. During the three public meetings and 46-day comment period, we received 237 comments. The overwhelming majority of those comments explicitly expressed support for the proposal.”

The recommendation to pursue membership in SPP was published in the Federal Register Nov. 1, 2013. Western presented a detailed explanation of the proposal and listen to customer and stakeholder comments at meetings in Lincoln, Neb.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Moorhead, Minn., or Fargo, N.D., during the 45-day comment period.

The Upper Great Plains Region markets Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin—Eastern Division power and energy to preference customers in Montana east of the Continental Divide, North Dakota, South Dakota, western Minnesota and Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Western operates the Integrated Transmission System, which is owned by Western, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, and Heartland Consumers Power District.

The Upper Great Plains Region and the other IS owners have studied several forms of potential RTO participation since the 1990s. Beginning in 2011, 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.

The outcome of negotiations with SPP will be addressed in a Western/SPP membership agreement as well as likely changes to the SPP tariff and/or bylaws. Those changes will be worked through the normal SPP committee processes, SPP Board approval, and ultimately filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by SPP.