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 a ‘Loose Pool’ power market, which allows Railbelt utility providers to buy and sell economic power amongst each other.

There are currently two other models under consideration, a Unified/Independent System Operator (USO/ISO) and Transco. MEA  is awaiting hard data to answer the question, ‘do the benefits outweigh the costs’?

Loose Power Pool- currently operating

MEA has been an active participant in a new ‘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 system would provide one entity to economically manage all power generation to meet the entire Railbelt’s demands. This would facilitate ‘economic dispath’ providing Railbelt consumers the cheapest possible power at any given time.

Economic dispatch means that as more power is needed, it will be met by the next most cost-effective generation option, not necessarily the closest or the one owned by the local cooperative.

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 wants to understand if the cost-savings associated with a USO/ISO system outweigh the costs tied to forming the new organization. We are optimistic, but currently waiting on data from modeling results before we commit our members to this solution.

For more information follow this link to a RCA filing from the Alaska Railbelt Cooperative Electric Company (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’s participation in a Transco model discussion will depend on data from cost benefit modeling and how the resulting ‘settlement’ would impact our members’ rates.  Modeling data is anticipated to be released from the RCA in the third quarter of 2016. MEA is open to any model 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.

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.