Domino effect threatens MISO’s RTO

Pam Boschee, Managing Editor

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator Inc. (MISO) faces the threat of three of its largest transmission owners withdrawing from its proposed regional transmission organization (RTO). A domino effect was hinted in mid-December when another six transmission owners informed MISO of their intent to withdraw if those three members leave the organization.

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Illinois Power, Ameren and Commonwealth Edison (now Exelon) have announced their intentions to leave MISO. Illinois Power’s filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had been scheduled (at press time) for review in January.

The six transmission owners that provided notice of conditional withdrawal from MISO were Central Illinois Light Co., Cinergy Corp., Hoosier Energy R.E.C. Inc., Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co. and Wabash Valley Power Association Inc.

Cinergy Corp. spokeswoman, Angeline Protogere, said that if the three large transmission owners withdraw from MISO, “we [the group of six] will be electrically and operationally separated” from Midwest transmission. She added, “we’ve got to be geographically connected.” Unlike many other RTO issues, physical interconnection is not negotiable; it is a requirement.

MISO would be divided into two non-contiguous transmission systems separated by the three withdrawing transmission owners. Central Illinois Light and Southern Illinois Power Cooperative would be stranded as islands, surrounded by transmission systems that would not be part of MISO. (See figure.)

The six transmission owners planning conditional withdrawal also assert MISO would lose direct control of critical flowgates within the transmission systems of the three withdrawing companies and would face parallel operation issues with systems under the control of the competing Alliance RTO.

Consequently, the six companies believe it would be unreasonable and unjust for FERC to force them to remain in MISO and request that their withdrawal be approved to become effective as of the date upon which FERC allows the withdrawal of the other companies.

The continued existence of MISO as it now stands is tenuous.

James P. Torgerson, recently named by the MISO board to succeed Matthew Cordaro (following his resignation) as president and CEO, acknowledged that the winter winds of change may be blowing across the Midwest.

In a recent teleconference, he said, “It’s really a new world, and things have changed since the

Midwest ISO was originally conceived. At the point in time it was conceived, the geographical configuration made a lot of sense and people made significant investment decisions on that basis. But things have changed, and people’s perceptions and perspectives have changed.”

Torgerson said MISO’s membership will be asked for direction in the next 30 to 60 days (from Dec. 15) in planning the organization’s future course. “In my mind if the model we have doesn’t work-and it’s apparent to me it’s not working-then we either have to change the model or others are going to go to a model that accommodates their requirement. We’re clearly open to changing organizational structure, whether it needs to be one for profit or becoming a transco.”

Besides becoming a for-profit entity, another option being considered is serving as an umbrella organization responsible for security coordination, independent market monitoring and coordinating transmission planning (e.g., working with the Alliance RTO).

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