Second Energy Subcommittee ‘Powering America’ hearing examines wholesale electricity markets

Published on July 28, 2017 by Kevin Randolph

The House Subcommittee on Energy recently held its second “Powering America” hearing where representatives heard from all seven Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent Service Operators (ISOs) on the state of wholesale energy markets.

“Americans have come to expect that electricity will always be available when it’s needed, and it is the role of the grid operators to make sure that this expectation is always met,” Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said. “RTOs and ISOs play a vital role in the delivery of power from the generator to the consumer, but it’s a role largely outside the public’s view. By operating and dispatching the transmission system 24/7, the grid operators must ensure that supply and demand is continually kept in balance.”

Subcommittee members and panelists discussed challenges and opportunities related to the shift toward natural gas and renewables and the decreasing use of coal for energy generation.

“New England has made many operational and market-based changes to meet the needs of the region,” ISO New England President and CEO Gordon van Welie said. “However, we are fully immersed in a major transformation of how electricity is produced and consumed in New England. Market forces and public policy decisions are impacting both operations and markets, and require solutions in order to fully realize their reliability, economic and environmental potential.”

Cybersecurity was another common topic with panelists recommending information sharing, government-industry collaboration and simulations to help prepare for potential cyberattacks.

“As the systems that control and monitor the power grid become more advanced and interconnected, the scope of physical and cyber security concerns expands,” Bradley C. Jones, president and CEO at the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), said. “The NYISO implements the cyber and physical security standards as part of a layered ‘defense in depth’ posture that seeks to defend its critical infrastructure assets from incursions.”