THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY'S 2012 CONGESTION STUDY should take a five- to 10-year outlook, panelists at DOE's congestion study workshop said in early December.
Extending beyond that in a congestion analysis will render DOE's study too speculative to be useful, they said.
"The valuable time frame is that in which we engage in actionable planning-the planning pursuant to the criteria we've laid down that results in projected needs for resources in the relatively near term," said Chuck Liebold, manager of interregional planning for the PJM Interconnection. "It should include the resources we've identified that have a relatively higher commercial probability of coming to fruition."
Near-term to lend more definition to plans
Given impending EPA regulations, generation retirements and interconnection requests for wind power that will be taking place within the next five to 10 years, a near-term outlook will lend more definition to transmission plans, said Mike Henderson, director of regional planning and coordination for ISO New England.
Henderson added that focusing on historical congestion on various transmission systems and evaluating the robustness of the transmission plans that are in place and the historical success of implementing those particular plans lends more to a "closer-in" view as a primary focus.
"The longer term you look, the more speculative the plans become and I think it's certainly more definitive in that shorter time frame," Henderson said.
This sentiment was uniform among the panelists, who also included Jim Busbin, Southern Company's supervisor of bulk planning; John Buechler, the New York ISO's executive regulatory policy advisor; and Bob Bradish, American Electric Power's managing director of transmission planning and business development.
The workshop was the first of four the DOE is holding to solicit input on its 2012 transmission congestion analysis process.
"You can't do anything less than five years in this transmission world," Bradish said of a forward-looking study.
Regional data can guide
For source material and guidance, the panelists suggested DOE look at data from the various regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, including planning authorities' studies of transmission system upgrades; the Strategic Midwest Area Renewable Transmission study, or SMARTransmission study; and the Eastern Interconnection Planning Authority's (EIPC's) two-phase transmission study. The latter, they cautioned, should not be relied upon heavily, however.
"I draw the analogy of the EIPC study to a Detroit concept car," Liebold said. "You'll never see it built, perhaps, but there are lots of elements in those cars" to learn from. "We learn lots of things from the very long-range studies that we can begin to anticipate and perhaps incorporate into our actionable plans. In order to have a good plan, you need to have a range of ideas of where you might be going in the future. In terms of this DOE congestion work, [the EIPC study] is probably of lower significance."