New revenue-quality meters to be installed at BPA’s transmission substations for eight of the “Big 10” hydro facilities will be the first building blocks in the agency’s “Grid Mod” initiative, the agency announced July 29.

The meters—which are accurate and precise enough to be used for energy billing purposes—will increase the visibility and accuracy of Federal Columbia River Power System generation data, and help modernize Bonneville’s grid, which are also key elements needed for entering the Western EIM, if it decides to.

The “Big 10” hydro facilities are Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, John Day, The Dalles, McNary, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite.

The plants represent a majority of the capacity and balancing capability of FCRPS, including those dispatched by automatic generation control, and have served as the backbone of modeling efforts to determine whether entry into the EIM makes financial sense (WPW No. 17 [6]). However, none of the existing meters at these facilities are owned or maintained by BPA.

Existing meters at the plants, some installed more than 50 years ago, generally only produce hourly averages of energy use, and don’t pass the information on to any modern systems. They also report gross generation—including “station use” energy used by the plant to run its equipment—and not net generation.

However, BPA’s “Grid Mod” effort will require a “settlement-quality, five-minute increment” of generation, Bonneville said in a release.

Kelly Gardner, project manager for the meter review and update program, noted that metering provides “foundational” data—the actual net generation entering the Federal Columbia River Transmission System—which is the “keystone” for grid modernization.

“You want to support accurate real-time operations? You need metering,” Gardner said. “Want to reduce your conservative risk tolerance? Better metering will get you there.”

Metering also impacts BPA’s potential participation in the EIM, which “puts a price on the error between scheduled and actual generation,” said Steve Kerns, grid modernization director for Bonneville’s Business Transformation Office.

BPA awarded a contract to Burns & McDonnell in June 2019 to begin the upgrade design work, and the project team expects the meters at Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, John Day, and The Dalles will be completed by April 2021. This will provide nearly a full year of testing to support parallel operations with the new meters before the proposed EIM go-live date in March 2022.