Peace, Love, and Market Efficiency

sunrise over solar panels utility

What could you do with $5.97 Million in savings? That’s a question the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and PacifiCorp might be asking themselves after a report last week showing the benefits of the just-out-of-the-box Energy Imbalance Market (EIM). And that was just for the first two months of operation – and it didn’t even count all of the savings.

As we’ve discussed, an EIM is a market tool utilities use to match electric generation with consumption in near-real time. In this case, the CAISO, which manages the electric grid for about 70% of California customers, and PacificCorp, a utility that serves 1.7 million customers in 6 western states, are essentially “trading” energy to make sure the grid stays in balance (hence the name Energy Imbalance Market). If consumers in the Golden State are using a bit more energy than predicted, CAISO now has access to extra energy generated by PacifiCorp to keep the iPhones and Teslas charging, and vice versa. While that’s a bit of an over-simplification, an EIM allows each to operate much more efficiently than the old Balkanized system and lowers costs for electric customers of participating utilities.

For clean energy fans like us at Vote Solar, an EIM makes it much easier (and cheaper) to fill the peaks and valleys in solar and wind energy generation caused by occasional clouds or variable winds. A successful EIM means that we’ll be able to power our grid with much higher levels of renewable energy – without needing costly and polluting fossil backup to make sure the lights stay on..

And this is just the beginning. The savings reported are pretty much in-line with what was expected, and will continue to rack up each month the market is operating. As more utilities realize what a sweet deal this is, they too may join in the fun and add to the savings. As of this writing, NV Energy is making preparations to join this fall and other utilities around the west are considering joining. Which gets us back to the problem of what to do with all those savings…

Peace, Love and Market Efficiency – it’s a beautiful thing!

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