Panel Paper: Integrating Wind into the Electric Grid: The Case of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator

Saturday, November 8, 2014 : 8:50 AM
Enchantment Ballroom C (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth Wilson and Benjamin Stafford, University of Minnesota
With over 60,000 MW of wind power in the United States, wind integration has become a crucial area of policy study. Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) are playing a crucial role in the integration of wind power into the electricity system. RTOs are voluntary organizations authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and they bring together a wide-range of energy system stakeholders. Transmission owners, utilities, state public utility commissions, consumer and environmental advocacy groups all join together in RTO committees and working groups to plan the future electric system and agree on market rules. RTOs are responsible for operating electricity systems and markets to achieve desired policy outcomes. State renewable portfolio standards which require electricity come from renewable resources are dependent on both increased transmission and market integration.  Here, we focus on the structured stakeholder processes for wind integration within one RTO, the Midwest ISO (Midcontinent ISO after 2013, hereafter MISO). In 2013, the MISO region had over 12,000 MW of wind power, with another 25,000 MW slated to be built within the existing state renewable portfolio standards. However, in 2010 transmission congestion and electricity dispatch practice resulted in over four percent of wind power with in MISO region being curtailed. We examine MISO’s creation of the Dispatchable Intermittent Resources (DIR) rules, which seek to integrate wind power into competitive wholesale electricity markets. The DIR development, which occurred from 2009-2011, required coordination of technical expertise related to markets, engineering, policy, business and economics. The decisions made altered the relationship and economic viability of renewable energy resources in electricity markets in significant ways. We will review the historical context for DIR development and present the organizational process for decision making for DIR in the MISO region. This paper fills critical gaps in the literature: while many studies have analyzed the effects of state and federal policies on building wind power, far fewer have studied the processes by which variable wind power is being integrated into electric power markets. Additionally, while many energy policy researchers focus on interactions between local, state and federal policies, the crucial roles of RTOs are often neglected in energy system policy research.