The "Grid"

The Central Generation’s transmission system. The high-voltage power lines and substations that move power from central generation plants to the customer.

Here in the Northwest, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) owns and operates about three-quarters of the region's high-voltage electric grid. Its 15,000 miles of power lines are technically advanced and highly reliable. BPA also has transmission links to the north (Canada), south (California) and east (eastern Montana). The largest is the Pacific Intertie, which carries power between the Northwest and California. Utilities up and down the West Coast use BPA’s high-voltage grid to help deliver electricity to their customers.

"BPA has long given other utilities access to its transmission grid, which is a key to utility deregulation. BPA is currently participating with other Northwest transmission owning utilities to develop a regional transmission organization (RTO West), which would act as an independent system operator throughout the region. BPA and other participating utilities would retain ownership of their transmission facilities, but RTO West would provide 'one stop shopping' for transmission access in the Northwest. The utilities plan to file a detailed proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2001. Upon FERC approval, the utilities would move forward with a goal of RTO start-up in late 2003."

(BPA Website, Bonneville Power Administration, the Power of the Columbia River- a text, audio, video presentation. )

A transmission system such as this is seen as fundamental to the growth of the Energy Web. "Commissioner William Massey of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told a distributed Generation conference that FERC plans to continue crafting policies to remove transmission and distribution barriers for distributed resources, both wholesale and retail. 'Any sort of interconnection barrier that exists out there, we want to stop it. And we want to streamline the process of obtaining grid access.'" (Blankenship, S. 2002, May, DG Update: DG will benefit from continued move toward uniform transmission access. Power Engineering Magazine)

BPA also has a program that looks at all alternatives to constructing new transmission lines. Called the Non-Construction Alternatives Round Table, it is chaired by Vickie VanZandt.

"Before BPA decides to build a line, we want to make sure we have fully considered whether non-construction alternatives can be used," says VanZandt, TBL vice president for transmission operations and planning. "We want to look at all options, not just traditional construction."

BPA says the types of alternatives that will be explored by the new round table include energy efficiency programs, demand reduction initiatives, pricing strategies and distributed generation, among other things.

Non-construction Roundtable page at BPA

New York Times article on the recent grid failure
Wired Magazine article on old coal plants being brought online.

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