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Powerful Living Southwest Power Pool celebrates 75 years of electric reliability


Left: A shot from inside SPP’s control center, where real-time operators monitor the grid 24/7. Right: Cover of an Arkansas Power & Light publication highlighting the production of the fi rst ingot of aluminum at the Jones Mill plant referenced in the story. Courtesy photos


If viewing our digital edition, click here to watch a commemorative video on SPP’s 75th anniversary. Access our digital edition at www. ok-living.coop or fi nd our FREE app at the Apple Newsstand Google Play or Amazon.


T


his Dec. 7, America will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nine days later, an organization in Little Rock, Ark., will


likewise celebrate 75 years. On Dec. 16, 1941, in support of the American war effort, 11 electric utilities agreed to pool re- sources to keep power fl owing to Jones Mill: an aluminum production facility outside Malvern, Ark. President Roosevelt’s wartime goal to pro- duce 50,000 airplanes per year created the need for huge quantities of aluminum, and Jones Mill’s operation would require 120 megawatts (MW) of power—exceeding its home state’s in- stalled capacity of just 100 MW at the time. From the utilities’ partnership, Southwest Power Pool (SPP) was formed, and the new organiza- tion was successful in pooling power to support the plant. After the war, SPP continued to pro- vide safe, reliable power to American homes, including those throughout Oklahoma. SPP today is a regional transmission organiza-


tion (RTO): a not-for-profi t, federally regulated service organization that ensures the reliable op- eration of a portion of the nation’s power grid on behalf of its member companies, with capac- ity in excess of 50,000 MW. SPP describes itself as the air-traffi c controller of the power grid. Air-traffi c controllers do not own the airports in which they operate or the planes they direct but are responsible for ensur- ing air travelers depart, fly and land safely.


6


Similarly, SPP does not own the power stations it directs or the transmission lines across which electricity fl ows in its footprint, but it partners with generators, transmission owners, municipal- ities, power marketers, state and federal agencies, electric cooperatives and others to ensure the cost-effective and reliable delivery of power across a 14-state region. Though SPP works at the wholesale level and doesn’t directly serve end users, it does benefi t them. A recent study conducted by SPP and val- idated by the Brattle Group showed transmission investments in the SPP region had, on average, a benefi t-to-cost ratio of 3.5-to-1. That means every dollar spent to build or upgrade transmis- sion lines in Oklahoma and throughout SPP’s region will ultimately produce $3.50 in electric- ity production cost savings and other benefi ts. In addition to planning transmission infra- structure, SPP facilitates the sale and purchase of electricity through its Integrated Marketplace: a wholesale electric market. SPP’s marketplace launched in 2014 and has since reduced the cost of electricity in the organization’s region by more than $1 billion. These and other services provide net benefi ts


to SPP’s members in excess of $1.4 billion annu- ally at an overall benefi t-to-cost ratio of more than 10-to-1. For the typical end-use customer using 1,000 kWh per month, that means $68 of benefi ts a year at a cost of just 62 cents monthly. Or, put another way, without the services SPP


provides its members, a ratepayer’s $100 electric bill would be $105.65. “Rates for TCEC members are lower because


of SPP’s planning and provision of electric trans- mission service and its operation of an electric energy market,” Chris Giles, manager of regula- tory policy and compliance at TCEC based in Hooker-Okla., said. Over its 75 years, SPP has grown signifi cantly from an affi liation of 11 companies with a com- mon goal in 1941 to an organization employing 600 professionals in support of almost 100 mem- ber companies across a region spanning from the Canadian border in the north to Louisiana in the south and from southeastern Missouri to north- western Montana. “We exist to help our members keep the lights on, today and in the future. We do so not through hard work, innovation or effi ciency, though each is a necessary component of our success. For SPP, reliability is accomplished through strong, healthy relationships with those we serve,” President and Chief Executive Offi cer Nick Brown said. Because of the strength of those relationships,


its legacy of success and deliberate focus on con- tinuous improvement and building consensus among its members—a perspective it shares with companies like the members of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives—SPP has every reason to think its future is just as bright as its history.


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