Utility NorthWestern Energy has announced plans to participate in the California Independent System Operator’s Western Energy Imbalance Market.
The Western EIM is a real-time, wholesale power market managed by the ISO that enables participants to buy low-cost energy available anywhere across the eight western states of Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
According to NorthWestern Energy, “The EIM uses state-of-the-art software to analyze regional power grid needs and make available low-cost generation to meet energy demand every five minutes. Participating electric companies have been able to provide value for customers by drawing automatically on the least-cost generating option available to meet short-term variations in their customers’ power use. The EIM also gives participants the potential to optimize the use of renewable resources by making it easier to efficiently integrate variable renewable output with other resources, including hydro, coal and natural gas-fired generation that are available 24/7.”
The Western EIM says it has produced significant cost and environmental benefits since it began operation in November 2014, with $502.31 million in benefits and carbon emissions reduced by 314,258 metric tons.
NorthWestern Energy serves more than 718,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska with electricity and natural gas. The company operates with 28,055 miles of transmission and distribution lines and produces electricity from 11 hydroelectric facilities and two wind farms, among other technologies.
NorthWestern Energy will begin participating in April 2021.
The company says it has been studying the value and costs of the EIM for several years. “The EIM will allow NorthWestern to make better use of our transmission and electric generation resources,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Rowe said. “Expanding our use of the regional electric grid through the EIM will help integrate variable renewable energy. We have seen significant growth in wind generation in Montana, which highlights the need to have access to other generation resources that are available on demand, 24/7. Being part of EIM will help with that need.”
Other EIM participants include PacifiCorp, NV Energy, Arizona Public Service, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, Idaho Power and Powerex. Other entities the Western EIM says will join over the next few years are the Balancing Authority of Northern California/Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Salt River Project and Seattle City Light.