Perspectives on Real-Time Grid Operating Technologies to Manage Reliability in the Western Interconnection

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Although the initiating events differed, the blackouts that took place on September 8, 2011 in Arizona Southern California-Northern Baja, Mexico and on August 14, 2003 in the Northeast United States and Canada had common underlying causes related to deficiencies in grid planning and operation. This conclusion comes from a study of the two events by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) (FERC and NERC 2012).

The study found that, during the eight years between these two blackouts, the recommendations for real-time grid operation and management that resulted from investigations into the 2003 blackout have not been put into routine practice. The focus of this report is to understand why those recommendations have not yet been implemented universally and how state utility regulators, the governing boards of consumer-owned utilities, and the leadership of Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) can help ensure implementation of these recommendations going forward. This topic is particularly timely for these bodies to address as the nation and states implement policies that are changing the electricity generation resource mix. As a result of these changes, the reliability of the high-voltage transmission grid will increasingly depend on pro-active planning and operation, including adoption of new technologies;a reliable grid is essential to the success of these policies.

This study is based on interviews with grid operating and engineering staff. It provides basic information on real-time grid operations, policies, and current practices in the Western Interconnection and identifies based on the interviews, specific areas where improvements to current practices may be warranted. The report also highlights exemplary practices and promising approaches that were identified through the interview process.

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