CEBI Customer Workshop Delves Into Western Market and Regulatory Developments

By Kate Harrison

A diverse group of energy customers joined Clean Energy Buyers Institute (CEBI) staff in Portland, Oregon, in September for an educational workshop focused on U.S. electricity markets, the regulatory landscape of the West, and the advocacy role of corporate and institutional energy customers. This one-day workshop provided an opportunity for energy customers from industries including technology, apparel, mining, and more to connect with a supportive and engaged community of peers to better understand efforts underway to enhance regional cooperation across the West.

The group engaged in sessions on regulatory structures, the services organized wholesale markets provide, and the role of the customer voice in advocating to state regulators and utilities. Participants learned about market functions and the roles of market operators, including how economic dispatch works. The workshop also addressed the additional roles a regional transmission organization (RTO) or independent system operator (ISO) can provide that more limited organized wholesale markets may not provide, such as regional reliability coordination or transmission planning.

Several key themes emerged in the discussions, including concern over market trading barriers between adjoining wholesale electricity markets resulting from the use of different rules and procedures by the neighboring markets, an issue also known as market seams. Other areas of concern were transmission barriers and future electricity reliability. With a new or renewed understanding of market basics and the regulatory landscape, participants learned strategies for effective advocacy.

The workshop was hosted during a pivotal time for the Clean Energy Buyers Association’s (CEBA’s) Western market expansion priorities. In recent months, CEBA has been engaging with the tariff development and design of two emerging day-ahead markets in the Western Interconnection: Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP’s) Markets+ and the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO’s) Extended Day-Ahead Market (EDAM). SPP plans to seek Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval for Markets+ in 2024, while CAISO has filed for EDAM tariff approval at FERC by the end of the year. In both proceedings, CEBA continues to advocate for market design that maximizes customer benefits.

More recently, an emerging West-Wide Governance Pathways Initiative has fast-tracked the dialogue around a path for pursuing a West-wide organized market with independent governance. State utility regulators from Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho are meeting regularly to discuss pathways toward a new, nonprofit, independent Western regional market entity that would be governed by all participating states. And this month, the Western Power Pool announced plans to explore a West-wide effort to develop an actionable transmission plan to support the needs of the future energy grid.

Customers have an important role to play in championing organized wholesale market expansion. The U.S. West is a crucial opportunity area for customers to advocate for evolved energy markets that will help achieve decarbonization goals, enhance electricity reliability, provide cost savings, and enable the addition of more clean energy to the grid.