At 5:45 on the morning of Sept. 4, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) took a major step in helping to ensure the future reliability of the bulk electric grid across the western United States.
Along with many other balancing authorities and transmission operators in the West, BPA has been transitioning reliability coordinator services to RC West from Peak Reliability. Peak Reliability announced in August 2018 it will cease operations on Dec. 31.
BPA has begun extensive coordination with RC West, which is operated by the California Independent System Operator, through a two-month process known as "shadow operations." During this time, Peak Reliability has remained the reliability coordinator for BPA and has been working with RC West to ensure it is ready to take over operations on Nov. 1.
A reliability coordinator is essentially the top cop for transmission reliability across a wide geographic area. It is responsible for ensuring that each member operates with a focus on reliability, particularly across the transitions, or seams, from one area of responsibility to the next.
To accomplish this task, the reliability coordinator must receive real-time data from the various entities within its geographic span and be able to model those systems to ensure the stability and reliability of the grid.
RC West will be the largest reliability coordinator service provider in the western U.S. with some 40 members spanning Washington to Northern Mexico and east through Montana and Arizona. It began functioning as the reliability coordinator for balancing authorities and transmission operators in California and Northern Mexico on July 1.
For BPA, the transition is part of a grid modernization project undertaken by a large team of more than 100 employees from across the agency that includes project managers, business analysts, dispatchers, engineers, compliance experts, developers, and other subject matter experts. The team addressed new technological requirements, data integrations, and process changes as well as necessary communication and training for operators and others to interface with the new reliability coordinator. Work began last summer with an end goal of being ready to operate smoothly with RC West as BPA’s reliability coordinator on Nov. 1.
"Our starting point and end game is the same: the safe and reliable operation of the bulk electric system," said Troy Simpson, the program manager for the reliability coordinator transition. "We will always operate reliably, and with a robust and capable reliability coordinator like RC West, we can minimize the potential for negative impacts on the grid during a reliability event."
Beyond reliability coordinator services, this effort will better position BPA to participate in the Western Energy Imbalance Market if it decides to do so.
"The great work by this team to develop the common data sharing and modeling with RC West is the same basic architecture needed to interface with the Western EIM, as both functions are administered by the California Independent System Operator," said Steve Kerns, the grid modernization director for BPA. "This collaboration with CAISO will save both time and money for BPA and our customers if we decide to ramp up BPA’s capabilities to participate in the EIM."