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ReliabilityFirst Says Summer Supplies Expected to Be Adequate

Electricity supplies in the Mid-Atlantic, East Central and midwestern areas of the U.S. are expected to be adequate this summer to serve anticipated demand and the transmission system is expected to perform reliably, although it may experience congestion, according to a recently released report issued by ReliabilityFirst Corp.

The former East Central Area Reliability Council (ECAR), Mid-Atlantic Area Council (MAAC), and Mid-American Interconnected Network (MAIN) regional reliability councils combined to form ReliabilityFirst, which began operations on Jan. 1 as one of the now eight regional reliability councils under the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC).

Historically, the bulk electric systems comprising ReliabilityFirst have experienced widely varying power flows due to electricity transactions and prevailing weather conditions across the region. As a result, the assessment notes that the transmission system could become constrained during peak demand periods due to unexpected generating unit and transmission system outages concurrent with large power transactions.

In addition, certain critical transmission elements that have experienced congestion in previous summers continue to be heavily loaded and may require operator intervention to ensure that adequate reliability levels are maintained. Although generation redispatch has the capability to mitigate some of these potential constraints, local operating procedures and the NERC transmission loading relief procedure may be required to maintain adequate transmission system reliability at times, ReliabilityFirst said.

ReliabilityFirst's total internal demand forecast for the summer of 2006 is 191,600 MW. This demand forecast is derived from the aggregate demand forecasts of the ReliabilityFirst member companies, based on expected summer weather. This is 1,400 MW (0.7%) higher than the actual peak demand experienced during the summer of 2005 for these companies.

A comparison of the 2006 forecast to the 2005 forecast may be available later this year when ReliabilityFirst collects the 2005 demand forecasts from its members.

Demand-side management programs and interruptible demand contracts that could be curtailed, if necessary, are expected to total 4,100 MW at the time of the summer peak. At the present time, members have arranged for a net of 1,592 MW of power sales to entities outside the ReliabilityFirst region.

Meanwhile, ReliabilityFirst projects net capacity resources to serve demand in the region to be 222,395 MW (net seasonal capability), which is about 400 MW more capacity resources than were in the ReliabilityFirst regional area for the summer of 2005.

ReliabilityFirst projects its capacity margin to be 15.7%. The forecast capacity margin in the ECAR, MAAC, and MAIN regions last summer were 19.5%, 15.8%, and 15.2%, respectively. The reserve margin of 18.6% for this summer exceeds the MAAC reserve requirement of 15%, the MAIN recommended reserve of 14%, and the state of Wisconsin requirement of 18%. ECAR did not have a specified reserve requirement.

ReliabilityFirst is developing a reserve requirement criterion, although that effort is not scheduled to be completed until 2007. However, capacity resources in the region are expected to be adequate this summer, with the capacity margins slightly less than last year, while the reserve margins remain above the requirements of the former MAAC and MAIN regions.

The report said that deliveries of Powder River Basin coal are no longer limited due to last May's derailment and subsequent track maintenance. Significant coal delivery problems are not expected for ReliabilityFirst members this summer.

The ReliabilityFirst region is broadly diversified with regard to fuel supply. About 47% of the capacity uses coal for its fuel, with another 14% of the capacity being nuclear fueled. This 61% of the capacity is primarily base and intermediate duty generation.

Oil and natural gas fuels are 7% and 28% of the capacity, respectively, and 3% of the capacity is hydroelectric. The remaining 1% of capacity uses a variety of renewable and other energy supplies.

ReliabiltyFirst is working to develop a single set of processes from the separate activities of its predecessor regions, including the preparation of reliability assessments. Thus, the 2006 summer reliability assessment reflects the combined efforts of the three regional assessment activities.

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