In Addition to Setting and Enforcing Reliability Standards, part of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's (NERC) role is to assess the state of the bulk power system and identify areas for improvement through annual summer, winter and long-term assessments. Through this new series of articles in T&D World, we'd like to share our findings with you, highlight the successes achieved so far and discuss ways our industry can address the challenges ahead of us.

NERC's 2007 Long-Term Reliability Assessment forecasts that demand for electricity is expected to rise at more than twice the rate of committed resources over the next decade, indicating a serious challenge for our industry. As the demand for electricity continues to increase, the bulk power system needs to be significantly improved.

There is promising evidence that a trend of higher investment in transmission resources has begun, however. Edison Electric Institute's most recent data shows that both investor-owned electric utilities and stand-alone transmission companies invested US$6.9 billion in 2005, which represents a 9.5% increase over 2004.

Our 2007 Long-Term Reliability Assessment data supports this trend by showing that, in general, transmission projects are now scheduled to be completed sooner than previously projected. More of them are also in the queue than in the past.

As our industry embarks on this journey of bringing the North American grid into the 21st century, we face several hurdles that we must consider for our efforts to be successful:

Renewable Energy Resources

We must work diligently to integrate variable resources like wind into the system. We also need to find better ways to maximize these resources, include them in our planning and accommodate their special characteristics. The remote nature of these resources will require new lines. Power will need to travel long distances over these lines to reach load centers, further complicating reliability and stability requirements.

Grid Modernization

New technologies, especially on the demand side, are opening up uncharted territory for the bulk power system. These new systems will enable consumers to respond to market prices, aggregators to sell capacity provided by distributed generation to open markets, and grid operators to see and actively correct disturbances in real-time. We must embrace these new “smart grid” initiatives and coordinate to realize their full potential.

Static/Dynamic Reactive Resources

As our system is increasingly loaded and the generation mix shifts from small generators in urban centers to a variety of distributed resources, the need to inject both static and dynamic VARs is growing exponentially. Bringing new and needed resources online will require both vision and dedication from all levels within utilities and independent organizations.

Advanced Planning and Load Flow Tools

With the unpredictability and volatility of power flows, and with increasingly loaded and complex power systems, our industry must have broader coordination in planning and operations. Therefore, we are required to develop sophisticated planning and control tools — some operating in real time — that will lead to a more robust, reliable bulk power system.

Planned Transmission Circuit Miles, 230 kV and Above
2006 Existing 2007-2011 Additions 2012-2016 Additions 2016 Total Installed
United States
ERCOT 8515 874 242 9631
FRCC 7171 297 81 7549
MRO 16,110 1811 78 17,999
NPCC 6191 339 16 6546
New England 2525 264 16 2805
New York 3666 75 0 3741
RFC 26,878 441 0 27,320
SERC 32,324 1677 573 34,574
Central 3243 166 0 3409
Delta 5036 341 74 5451
Gateway 1952 57 0 2009
Southeastern 9581 415 473 10,469
VACAR 12,512 698 26 13,236
SPP 7610 1111 21 8742
WECC 58,681 4406 2540 65,627
AZ-NM-SNV 10,300 1231 946 12,477
CA-MX-US 17,682 1522 0 19,204
NWPP-US 24,778 721 741 26,240
RMPA 5921 932 853 7706
Total - U.S. 163,480 10,956 3551 177,988
MRO 6710 201 189 7100
NPCC 29,252 630 402 30,284
Maritimes 2196 60 0 2256
Ontario 11,312 201 220 11,733
Québec 15,744 369 182 16,295
WECC 10,688 668 153 11,509
Total - Canada 46,650 1499 744 48,893
WECC 674 152 192 1018
Total - NERC 210,804 12,607 4487 227,899