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Southwest Power Pool dissolving enforcement entity to focus on RTO

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Southwest Power Pool (SPP) is eliminating its role as a regional enforcer of grid rules to focus purely as a regional transmission organization involved in reliability coordination, market operations and planning.

Bowing to a nationwide movement among U.S. grid organizations, SPP is dissolving its SPP Regional Entity (RE) by the end of next year. In the meantime, the SPP Regional Transmission Authority (RTO) has expanded its oversight from eight to 14 central and southwest states in the past decade.

 “Given that the footprints of the SPP RTO and SPP RE no longer align—due to our significant growth over the last decade and in light of further potential expansion opportunities to the west. . . (the organization’s leadership) made the strategic decision to focus on our core functions of reliability coordination, wholesale market operations and transmission planning. I believe this is in the long-term best interest of SPP and our members,” SPP CEO Nick Brown said in a statement.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must approve the termination of the SPP RE. NERC already has given its encouragement for the move.

Once formally approved, all sides must smoothly transition those enforcement duties over 120 electric utilities to another compliance authority.

SPP pledged to keep the RE’s 24 employees still in the 605-person workforce. The RE will keep its oversight function until a transition is completed by no later than Dec. 31, 2018.

The regional enforcement entity was created 10 years ago as part of a FERC-approved agreement between SPP and NERC. The RE covered all or part of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico and Texas.

SPP’s dual mandate, however, is a dying breed, the last from that time to operate both as an RTO and RE. The Florida Reliability Coordinating Council is the only registered entity such handling enforcement duties.

SPP was founded in 1941 when eleven regional power companies pooled their resources to keep Arkansas’ Jones Mill powered around the clock in support of critical, national defense needs.  It now oversees power supply, transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices for a 546,000-square-mile region including more than 60,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines.

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