The Northwest Power Pool's reserve contingency sharing and interim resource adequacy programs helped prevent Northwest blackouts during the recent heat wave.

As temperatures were pushing past 90 F in the Northwest on Aug. 21, and West Coast utilities were scrambling to find capacity, one Northwest utility faced a 700 MW deficit and was preparing to shed load. Instead, the utility met that deficit with the help of the Power Pool's reserve contingency sharing program.

Frank Afranji, president of the Northwest Power Pool, declined to name the utility, but said the utility had "armed their load shedding program."

"But they were able to fill a portion from the market, and picked up about half of their need from the reserve sharing program, which is designed for that specific reason," Afranji said.

He said another utility accessed 50 MW of capacity from the Power Pool's recently enacted interim resource adequacy program that went live July 31, and two utilities stepped up to fill the 50 MW gap.

"The combination of the reserve sharing and interim RA program worked very nicely together to meet the needs within the Northwest Power Pool's footprint, and helped avoid any load shedding," he said.

The Northwest's wind fleet was generating about 300 to 400 MW at the time the unnamed utility went to the Power Pool for help, Afranji said, and the region's hydroelectric generation was strong.

A good water year, coupled with a late seasonal runoff, provided BPA plenty of water to generate power during the heat wave. Power generation was also helped by the agency's flexible spill agreement, which calls for increased spring spill at certain times to help juvenile fish migrate, but allows the agency to generate more power in August.

Northwest hydro production in August has averaged about 1,000 MW above normal, according to Energy GPS. BPA had federal hydro project turbines humming during the heat wave, including those at the four lower Snake River dams, which were working at capacity to help meet peaks.

"Stated simply, the Northwest grid was healthy and exports to the south were constrained by limited southbound transmission," Energy GPS said.

Afranji said the Power Pool's programs are getting more attention and interest from utilities around the Northwest in the wake of their performance during the heat wave.

Without the interim RA and reserve sharing programs, "the market volatility would have been horrific and the load shedding would have been real," Afranji said. "Those two programs contributed to stabilizing the market in the Power Pool footprint."

Editor - Clearing Up

Steve began covering energy policy and resource development in the Pacific Northwest in 1999. He’s been editor of Clearing Up since 2003, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resource and University of Texas.