Have you wondered what goes on behind the scenes of electric power delivery in America? This post explains who is controlling the flow of power on the grid and who is policing to ensure the reliability requirements are met.
First a quick look of the power-grid.
So, who is dispatching the megawatts and megavars from generators that gets sucked up by reactive and active loads in the grid? The map below shows the balancing authorities.
Figure 3 illustrates the power grid operators. In most cases, the owners of generation and transmission facilities hand-over the controls to these operators. They do this to avoid monopoly by any one entity. Some of the big operators and the customers it serves are (as of June 2018):
PJM: 65 Million people
MISO: 42 Million people
CISO: 39 Million people
ERCOT: 24 Million people
SWPP: 18 Million people
Information on the remaining operators can be found here.
Who regulates the power grid for electric reliability in USA?
Federal Government Entities:
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) imposes mandatory reliability standards on all generation and transmission owners that tie into power grid shown in Figure 1 above. FERC has authorized North American Electric Reliability Corporation to implement its standards.
North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) delegates its authority to 8 regional reliability councils (as of June 2018). These councils are shown in Figure 4. These councils audit all participants (transmission owners, generation owners, and power grid operators) in their region to assure the standards are being followed.
State Government Entities:
Every state in USA has a commission that ensures the Owners are delivering safe and reliable electric power to its constituents. This oversight is in addition to the federal oversight.
You can view who the governing entities are for every state, here.
Unlike federal standards, the state standards tend to apply to the distribution system. However some standards could apply to higher voltages. For instance, click here to view Washington state’s set of standards. The 480-100-373 rule mandates the voltage on the primary distribution feeder to notbe more than 5% or less than 5% nominal voltage. Rule 480-100-368 mandates the power frequency to stay at 60HZ under normal conditions. Other states may list these technical specifications that may or may not be as conservative as Washington’s requirements.
Thus far, regulations pertaining to electric reliability were presented. How about environmental impacts? When new power facilities are built:
US Army Corp of Engineers are involved when the facilities are installed in a wetland area. Wetlands purify ground water, support wild life and control floods. Due to their significance, permits need to be obtained from Federal (army corp of engineers), State, and City entities.
Federal Aviation Administration is involved when the facilities are installed near airports or when really tall structures (200 feet or more) are installed in other areas.