Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In 2016, she received the American Public Power Association’s Public Service Award, which recognizes a publicly elected or appointed official at the national or state level whose activities have furthered the objectives of public power.
Think about the electric grid — transmission and distribution equipment spanning the entire country and carrying electricity across rivers, mountains, and highways right into our businesses and homes, making commerce possible and communities livable.
“Scores of times each day, with the merest flick of a finger, each one of us taps into vast sources of energy … transformed into electricity, the workhorse of the modern world,” the National Academy of Engineering said, calling the electric grid one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.
The grid has been doing its job for more than a century. That’s a long time and some parts are showing their age, while others need to be upgraded just to keep pace with evolving technology. Still, the system is resilient and robust. For example, in 2015 the U.S. was hit by 24 major winter storms and more than 1,000 tornadoes, but all utility customers on average lost power for roughly 243 minutes the entire year — and public power customers for just 125 minutes in the year — according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
Could we do better? Absolutely, and we are taking steps to do so, like investing in new generation and advocating for cost-effective transmission planning.
A large group of power entities in the Mountain West, including several public power utilities, intends to start negotiations with the Southwest Power Pool to join the regional transmission organization.
The Mountain West Transmission Group said on Sept. 22 that it had completed initial discussions with SPP’s management team regarding membership in the RTO. “Through these discussions, Mountain West has determined that membership in SPP would provide opportunities to reduce customer costs, and maximize resource and electric grid utilization,” the group said.
The Mountain West Transmission Group said it intends to start negotiations with SPP through a public stakeholder process in October, to begin with meetings to take place Oct. 13, in Denver, and Oct. 16, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The meetings will be open to the public.
On June 6, the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association sent a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry expressing “our strong opposition” to the proposal in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request to sell the transmission assets of three power marketing administrations, or PMAs.
The budget request, released on May 23, proposes to divest the transmission assets of the Southwestern Power Administration, Western Area Power Administration, and Bonneville Power Administration.
The joint letter from the Association and NRECA focuses on the long partnership between the PMAs and preference customers (public power utilities and rural electric cooperatives) and notes that PMA costs are paid by the customers – not the federal government or taxpayers.
The grid moves electricity in ways never even imagined by its original designers, thanks to changing uses, large and small. Customers are adopting new technologies like rooftop solar and apps that allow them to better control when and how they use electricity. Large renewable power sources in disparate locations are creating the need for transmission lines from sites never before considered. All of this has transformed the wires business, and it’s only the beginning.
Widespread use of energy storage, whether combined with transmission infrastructure or sited alongside generation, will further change the way the grid transports electricity. In the past decade, security and resilience have become a higher priority than ever, after incidents causing widespread blackouts reminded us just how fragile the most expansive piece of machinery in the country can be.
To be clear, said the American Public Power Association’s Mike Hyland, the grid isn’t failing, and the sky isn’t falling. In fact, the transmission system has been doing its job well and for a long time. It’s resilient, robust, and prepared for threats.
KPP’s generation resources are located across Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska, while KPP’s members are all in Kansas. To connect the generation resources to KPP members’ load, KPP obtains transmission service from the Southwest Power Pool. While KPP members are individually connected to transmission owned by Westar Energy, Midwest Energy, or Mid-Kansas Electric Company, transmission over all of these Kansas entities and transmission facilities is administered by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). By taking transmission service under the SPP tariff, KPP can obtain generation service from suppliers throughout a 14-state region in the central Unitied States, from the panhandle of Texas to the Canadian border, with no additional cost.