California ISO makes protest RTO filing

The California Independent System Operator Friday submitted its filing for a regional transmission organization meeting a deadline set by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. The filing, which other grid system operators made voluntarily, was mandated by FERC in an Apr. 26 order.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, June 1 -- The California Independent System Operator Friday submitted its filing for a regional transmission organization meeting a deadline set by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission.

The filing, which other grid system operators made voluntarily, was mandated by FERC in an Apr. 26 order. That order spelled out a price mitigation and market monitoring plan to dampen surging wholesale electricity prices in California. Without a regional transmission organization (RTO) filing by June 1, FERC's price mitigation plan would have been voided.

"The CAISO submits this filing under protest, as the commission cannot lawfully condition the mitigation of unjust and unreasonable wholesale electricity prices on the submission of filings on unrelated matters in other dockets," according to the California ISO's filed RTO document.

Last year, FERC ordered utilities and transmission operating systems to group themselves into larger control areas so the number of transactions between different transmission systems could be minimized resulting in a smoother more "seamless" electricity grid.

The California ISO had not filed or joined with any other RTO, and said in Friday's filing it had no intention of doing so. In fact, the ISO said it reserved the right to withdraw its filing, if FERC orders it to join another regional transmission organization or if the federal agency orders major changes to the ISO proposal.

Excludes Pacific Gas & Electric
The ISO's RTO plan includes San Diego Gas & Electric Co., San Diego, and Southern California Edison Co. but not Pacific Gas & Electric Co., San Francisco. Details of a market reform plan that would make the RTO compliant with FERC guidelines were not included in the filing.

Pacific Gas & Electric is in bankruptcy proceedings and had to "reserve rights and flexibility," said company spokesman John Nelson. But in comments filed separately with FERC, Pacific Gas & Electric reserved its right to take part in any specific RTO proposal in the future as its circumstances change, he said.

The ISO filing stated the grid operator will function as a statewide regional transmission organization. The grid operated by the ISO includes 25,526 circuit miles of transmission facilities, larger than any of the other functioning independent system operators. However, the ISO conceded the entire western transmission system would benefit from greater cooperation among operators and utilities.

The ISO said among the problems it faced in making the filing is legislative changes currently under consideration in California that could effect future operations. Regional coordination on transmission issues must be structured to accommodate public ownership of transmission facilities, the filing stated. California has a memorandum of understanding with Southern California Edison Co. to buy that utility's transmission facilities.

"The ISO submits that formation of an Interconnection wide RTO would not be prudent at this time," according to the filing.

The California grid operator said progress in transmission access and greater coordination among the transmission systems in the western region is not dependent on formation of a regional RTO. The ISO reported it is in discussions to smooth transactions and coordinate control areas with two other western RTOs.

The ISO suggested FERC work to create conditions that will reassure other western states that regionwide RTOs will be consistent with their interests and not increase their exposure to "runaway" wholesale prices.

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