EnergyLines January 2017

Portal provides critical capacity notifications

System automates communications between Hoosier Energy, members

A strong communications network helps power system operators stay one step ahead of potential threats to electric reliability.

With the introduction of Hoosier Energy’s new capacity emergency portal this summer, members now have a tool that instantly keeps them abreast of critical reliability notifications if a capacity emergency appears imminent.

The new portal automates communications between Hoosier Energy and member systems, saving precious minutes in the unlikely event member systems would be directed to shed load. The portal also is an important communication tool in advising members of the potential of a capacity emergency alert as well as the severity level.

System Control uses the portal to advise member systems of emergency directives issued by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which oversees electric reliability for a 15-state region.

The portal came in handy last summer when MISO declared capacity emergencies on July 21 and Aug. 29 both due to unplanned generation outages and higher than forecasted energy usage. 

The Aug. 29 event only reached the alert level where entities are asked to review their capacity emergency plans and to be prepared to take further action in case the emergency escalates. 

The July emergency was more serious where MISO directed all available reserve resources to be ready to start at a moment’s notice, but this emergency did not escalate to a point where MISO would direct voluntary public appeals to reduce energy usage. 

This event could have escalated to brownouts or blackouts if there had been more forced generation outages. The new capacity emergency portal proved to be an important communications tool in advising member systems when circumstances changed quickly this past summer, says Stan Elmore, System Control Coordinator, Operations and Training for Hoosier Energy. “The System Control supervisor’s ability to communicate with member systems through the portal then allows them to dedicate particular attention to the possible extreme conditions of the bulk electric system.”

The portal began as an idea from member systems operations personnel in 2014 as a potential process, safety and communications improvement. The two-year internal development effort was managed by Hoosier Energy Reliability Engineer Jeff Duff with programming technical development by  Sr. Programmer / Analyst Bryan Wadsworth. The portal was recognized this fall during a North American Transmission Forum (NATF) peer review. A team of electric utilities from across the country called out the portal as a “noteworthy” best practice that should be shared with other NATF members across the country – highly unusual for a new practice or procedure.

As this summer showed, having such a tool is essential if MISO issues an alert. Because MISO looks at the big picture across the region, when demand is high and supplies are tightening, they can issue a call for conservative operations or invoke emergency messaging such as a request for reserves, which means activating all available generation sources on standby status.

Hoosier Energy and other power suppliers must keep a certain percentage of reserves available to meet federal reliability standards. In June, MISO announced that reserves were tightening in the region, a trend noticed by Hoosier Energy over the last few years.

“No one can know for sure whether MISO alerts will become more prevalent in the future but if they do, we want to be prepared,” said Dave Sandefur, Hoosier Energy Vice President of Power Supply. “With the new portal and other tools, Hoosier Energy and our member systems are in a much better position to respond efficiently to MISO instructions and head off a potential regional system emergency before it’s too late.”


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