SPP task force addressing transmission planning model

new england transmission elp

A Southwest Power Pool task force is meeting in Dallas Oct. 7 to discuss the latest version of its recommendations to improve the transmission planning process, including shortening the planning cycle, Antoine Lucas, director of planning with SPP and a member of the task force, told TransmissionHub in an Oct. 6 interview.

SPP’s Transmission Planning Improvement Task Force (TPITF) has reached consensus on several items related to the transmission planning cycle and is now working on details for how to make the changes work for the regional transmission organization (RTO), Lucas said.

The task force is responsible for developing recommendations on enhancing the transmission planning process, and up to this point it has focused on “high level” initiatives, Lucas said.

At the Oct. 7 meeting and upcoming gatherings, “we need to delve a bit more into the details and focus on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’” associated with those initiatives, he said.

SPP currently has a three-year planning cycle as part of its transmission development efforts, with input from various working groups and committees of the RTO. The TPITF reached a consensus that the planning cycle should be shorter, and since about April there has been agreement that 18 months is a preferred time frame, Lucas said.

The group also has acknowledged that real-time operating data does not provide enough feedback into the planning process and that stakeholder process approvals and model development can limit the frequency of the planning process, according to background material prepared for the Oct. 7 meeting.

The TPITF members will discuss “key components to start firming up the feasibility of the goals we have” in preparation for moving its recommendations up the SPP chain of command, Lucas said.

The task force likely will send recommendations to SPP’s Market Operations Policy Committee, though some of the details could go to other groups within SPP, he said.

The task force hopes to send recommendations to the committee by January 2016, and while “there is a lot of work still to be done” to reach that goal, “the group is committed to pursuing these items,” Lucas said.

Besides shortening the planning cycle, the recommendations may include ways to gain efficiencies or expedite the process, such as having SPP staff and stakeholders work on items in parallel with each other rather than sequentially, which can produce bottlenecks and drag out the process, Lucas said.

Maintaining an economical, optimized transmission system is one of the four principles of SPP’s strategic plan – with the others being enhancing member value and affordability, reliability assurance and enhancing and optimizing interdependent systems.

Lucas said that the task force is focusing on opportunities to improve transmission planning by making the process quicker, bigger – that is, having a larger scope with future possibilities – and better by “honing in on the quality of data we’re using.”

As of Oct. 1, SPP has a larger footprint following the addition of the Integrated System (IS) that is made up of the Western Area Power Administration’s (Western) Upper Great Plains Region, Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Heartland Consumers Power District.

Anticipating that addition, Western has had a representative on the task force for some time and the group has been practicing gathering data and including the IS in various assessments, Lucas said, adding, “It’s been a pretty smooth transition.”

The TPITF will continuously strive to improve the transmission planning process so that SPP can fulfill its mission, Lucas concluded.

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