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RNP News Item
June 16, 2008

Bonneville Power Administration Implements Network Open Season

One of the major barriers facing the development of renewable energy projects in the Northwest is the availability of transmission capacity. Without a way to deliver power from their remote project locations to the urban centers that have a need for it, developers can’t move their projects forward. With many of the transmission lines in the region at or near capacity, finding a way to fund new transmission projects is vital.

For over a year now, Renewable Northwest staff has engaged in a collaborative effort with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and their transmission customers to craft the finer contractual details of BPA’s Network Open Season (NOS). The NOS is an innovative and promising approach to simultaneously solve several of the historic hindrances to subscribing, financing and constructing new major transmission upgrades on BPA’s system. The primary purpose of the network open season process is to prioritize transmission upgrades and consolidate the financial capital necessary to construct them. Another benefit is the removal of dormant transmission requests from the queues in order to offer transmission service agreements to projects that are ready to move forward.
In shaping the process, Renewable Northwest and its members were successful in getting BPA to decrease the minimum length of commitment for transmission service and to offer a transmission product option called “conditional firm” as a bridge to providing transmission service until construction is completed on the new transmission facilities. These two components of the final NOS design were instrumental in securing participation from the independent wind energy developers.
June 16th, 2008, marked a major success in this effort. On that day, all customers seeking long-term transmission service under BPA’s prior queuing policy were required to sign long-term NOS agreements or otherwise be removed from queue. We are very happy to report that this resulted in 29 customers signing 160 long-term transmission service contracts for 6,905 megawatts (MWs), of which over 5,000 MWs (on a capacity basis) will come from clean and renewable wind energy resources. To put this into perspective, BPA serves around 9,500 average MWs of load, and has not built a major transmission upgrade in over 10 years. BPA operates around 75% of the region’s bulk transmission lines, many of which provide service to other load serving entities.
For many years the region has seen a growing backlog of requests for new transmission and no feasible path for determining how new projects are funded, or how to determine which projects are ready to move forward immediately. BPA’s Network Open Season relieves the logjam and prioritizes transmission projects to finance and construct for benefit of the entire region. While this does not solve all of the transmission issues in the region, Renewable Northwest wants to thank BPA for taking this first step forward.
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