Railbelt Collaboration

MEA is committed to exploring collaborative opportunities with our fellow Railbelt utilities to achieve mutual benefits for our members. MEA members currently benefit from an informal power market called a ‘loose power pool’ where utilities voluntarily buy and sell power when it is more economic to do so.  MEA is participating in discussions with two main questions. 

1: How can MEA deliver the lowest cost power to our members at any given time? 

2: How can the Railbelt utilize MEA’s new power plant to benefit MEA members and other consumers? 

MEA, ML&P and Chugach Electric Association are moving forward with a more formal agreement called the ‘Railbelt Power Pool’. This agreement contractually pools together the generation resources so the next increment of load is being met by the next most efficient generation it will be met by the next most cost-effective generation option, not necessarily the closest or the one owned by the local cooperative. This sharing generation resources is also called economic dispatch. 

There are currently two other models under consideration, a Unified/Independent System Operator (USO/ISO) and Transco. While these kinds of organizations are common in the lower 48, MEA is in discussions with our Railbelt colleagues and other stakeholders to better define what they would look like for our smaller system and analyzing modeling data to answer the question, ‘do the benefits outweigh the costs’? 

Railbelt Power Pool- in development and testing

This formal agreement between MEA, ML&P and Chugach Electric Association (Parties) contractually pools our generation resources so the next increment of load is being met by the next most efficient generation of the three parties.  Each party will be committing their generation and transmission resources for the purpose of daily scheduling the least-cost dispatch for the next day. This is otherwise known as merit-order economic dispatch. The three utilities plan to file for approval with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska in the first quarter of 2018 and begin operating under the Railbelt Power Pool as soon as the commission allows. Once operational, the Parties intend to complete a one-year development period to solidify the details of the pool.  

Click here to read the September 2017 progress report to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA). 

Loose Power Pool- currently operating

MEA has been an active participant in a ‘Loose Pool’ power market – buying and selling more economic power between almost all of the other Railbelt utilities.  The Railbelt collaboration in conducting these transactions has been unprecedented, and MEA was able to reduce our members’ rates in the first two quarters of 2016 due to these sales. 

Eklutna Generation Station (EGS) has a unique design which allows MEA to deliver power in small increments. This flexibility allows us to meet varying demand needs quickly and effectively in contrast to more traditional power plants which contain fewer, large engines and deliver power in larger increments. 

Read MEA’s recent RCA filings detailing the process and benefits below:

January 2015 filing here.

May 2016 filing here.

Click the graphic below to see how the loose power pool system operates.

Loose Pool

The Railbelt’s Loose Power Pool System

Unified/Independent System Operator (USO/ISO)- in discussion

The USO/ISO systems are utilized in other areas in to economically manage power generation to meet area-wide demands and often facilitate planning. MEA wants to understand if the cost-savings associated with a USO/ISO system outweigh the costs tied to forming the new organization.  

As a first step, ARCTEC (Alaska Railbelt Cooperative Transmission and Electric Company) is investigating the development of an organization to manage and enforce system-wide reliability standards and long-term planning. A third-party coordinator will work with utilities and other stakeholders fall 2017 – spring 2018 to define the best model to serve the Railbelt. 

For more information follow this link to a RCA filing from ARCTEC on the matter, click the links below: 

Transco- in discussion 

The Transco model provides one entity to run the transmission network for the Railbelt – a toll road for long distance energy movement. MEA has been participating fully in the Transco Working Group discussions since 2015. MEA recently signed on to a Railbelt-wide MOU with the American Transmission Company (ATC) indicating interest in taking the development of a Transco to the next phase.  MEA’s participation in a Transco model will depend on how the resulting model would impact our members’ rates.   MEA is open to any solution that lowers costs and increases reliability for our members. 

Previous general manager, Joe Griffith, wrote a letter to the RCA in December 2015 to state MEA’s concerns on record. Read the letter here. 

For the August 2017 update to the RCA, click here. 

What is ARCTEC?

MEA is an active participant in ARCTEC, a group that bring together Railbelt utilities and other stakeholders towards common goals.

More information on ARCTEC is available here.

In addition, MEA works with other fellow utility members toward common goals through the Intertie Management Committee (IMC), the Bradley Project Management Committee (BPMC), as well as the Alaska Power Association (APA).

What is the Railbelt?

Alaska’s Railbelt region is comprised of six electric utilities spanning 500 miles from the Kenai Peninsula north to Fairbanks.

Railbelt utilities include: Chugach Electric Association (CEA)Seward Electric System (SES)Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA)Municipal Light and Power (ML&P), and Homer Electric Association.