PacifiCorp explores full membership in California ISO

California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller on April 14 applauded an announcement that PacifiCorp has signed a memorandum of understanding to explore full participation in the California Independent System Operator (ISO) marketplace.

“The addition of PacifiCorp to the ISO would allow larger amounts of wind and solar power to be more seamlessly integrated into the ISO’s transmission network, which will help achieve our clean energy vision, lower costs, and maintain grid reliability,” said Weisenmiller. “This development could prove to be the key to managing the variability of renewable energy production and over generation by giving grid operators more options to balance power supply and demand throughout the day.”

The ISO said the memorandum paves the way for performing a joint study on the feasibility and benefits of PacifiCorp joining the only competitive wholesale market in the West. The ISO is an independent, non-profit organization that manages about 80% of the energy flow in California. PacifiCorp is one of the West’s leading utilities, serving nearly 1.8 million customers in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and a small portion of California.

A decision to join the ISO by PacifiCorp would allow for a full coordination of the two largest electrical transmission grids in the region and allow customers served by both entities access to a broader array of power generation at lower costs.

“PacifiCorp has become a valued partner and we are pleased that they are exploring the value of fully taking advantage of the ISO’s state-of-the-art technology, planning talent and full spectrum of market products,” said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. “PacifiCorp’s full participation can make our market much stronger for all current ISO and Energy Imbalance Market participants, and can help lower costs, better leverage assets and reduce emissions across the region. While PacifiCorp is considering this step as best for them, we remain fully committed to the Energy Imbalance Market.”

Last November, PacifiCorp began participating in the six-state Energy Imbalance Market (EIM). In its first few months in the EIM, PacifiCorp has realized millions in cost benefits, which helped inform its decision to explore expanding that partnership to increase cost savings for customers, enhancing grid reliability and to support its clean energy goals.

“PacifiCorp and the ISO are well-positioned to strengthen our existing partnership in order to benefit customers, support clean energy goals and enhance service throughout the West and Pacific Northwest,” said Pat Reiten, president and CEO of PacifiCorp Transmission. “PacifiCorp customers will enjoy the same benefits of economies of scale that the competitive marketplace creates, just as the customers of all ISO full members have been earning.”

Over the next several months, the ISO and PacifiCorp will conduct an analysis of the cost and benefits associated with full participation. The most recent utilities to become full ISO participating members are Valley Electric Association of Pahrump, Nevada, the first out-of-state energy company to join the ISO, and the City of Colton, Calif., both officially becoming members in January 2013. If PacifiCorp transitions to full participation, it will be the ISO’s 17th transmission owning member.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.