CHEYENNE – A new report done by consulting firm Energy Strategies has found that establishing a broad, U.S. Western-wide regional transmission organization could bring significant economic benefits for the region.
The RTO economic impact study was done for an organization called Advanced Energy Economy. AEE says it "work(s) to accelerate the move to 100% clean energy and electrified transportation in the U.S." Microsoft, power company NRG and solar firm SunPower are listed as being among AEE's members.
The new report by Energy Strategies said the regional WTO not only would it diversify state economies in the 11 states analyzed, including Wyoming, it would save ratepayers millions of dollars per year in energy costs. Energy Strategies reported it could create as many as 657,000 jobs.
An RTO is a cooperation agreement that allows electric utilities across multiple states to share resources and leverage the cheapest, cleanest, and most efficient energy sources through an regional market. Currently, the West is one of the only regions in the U.S. without an RTO managing its power grid, the report said.
"The sooner the West develops an RTO, the sooner residents of the Western U.S. will see the economic benefits of a cleaner and more efficient power grid," said Amisha Rai, managing director at AEE, in the report. "The West needs a more secure power grid that is resilient to extreme weather and more welcoming to a changing energy mix. In building an RTO of the future here in the West, states can achieve those goals while creating jobs and delivering financial savings for households and businesses."
The analysis found that every state in the Western region could expect economic benefits from a West-wide RTO. This would be driven by lower electricity prices for households and businesses, additional clean energy development across the region, and the expansion of existing, as well as attraction of new businesses to the West.
Compared to the status quo, a Western RTO would, by 2030, in the words of the report:
Bring up to 657,000 new permanent, high-paying jobs to the West.
Save Western states $2 billion in annual energy cost savings.
Raise annual gross state revenue across the West by up to $79 billion per year.
Add up to 4,400 megawatts of additional clean energy to Western power grid.
There is significant momentum for a Western RTO, according the electric energy advocate. The entire Western region is Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
In Colorado and Nevada, state legislatures passed laws directing utilities to join an RTO by 2030; in California, legislators are considering a resolution that would explore opportunities to work with other states and better understand regional transmission opportunities, including formation of an RTO.
"It's exciting to envision the economic potential of a coordinated and integrated Western grid that can not only support the development of new renewable energy and battery storage projects, but also deliver affordable electricity to homes and businesses," said Mona Tierney-Lloyd, head of U.S. public policy at Enel. The Rome-based company produces and sells power.