Seattle City Light moves forward with joining Energy Imbalance Market

Seattle City Light CEO Larry Weis announced yesterday that the utility is moving forward with preparations to join the California Independent System Operators (CAISO) Energy Imbalance Market (EIM).

The EIM is a wholesale energy market designed to match up suppliers with demand in real time, in 5 and 15 minute intervals. This is particularly useful for ‘green energy” sources such as hydro, solar and wind, because their actual energy production fluctuates dramatically based upon factors outside of humans’ control. Nearly all of Seattle City Light’s energy production is from green sources, and the utility often has surplus that it could sell in a market. Having Seattle City Light join the EIM would not only increase revenues, but it would further “green” the West Coast electric grid by better utilizing green energy sources and thus reducing the demand for dirty ones.

Yet markets can be prone to manipulation, and the shadow of Enron still looms large. The Council cleared SCL to begin preparations to join the EIM, but also required the utility to report back by April 10, 2017, “with a detailed analysis of costs, benefits, and potential risks of participation to support in the CAISO EIM to support the Council’s decision about its participation in the market.” In other words, SCL can “prepare to participate,” including fully investigating the details, but it won’t give final approval until it hears more and satisfies its ongoing concerns about the fiscal safety of joining another energy market. Weis’ announcement yesterday states that their preliminary evaluation was positive, and they are proceeding forward with other preparations in anticipation of further briefing the Council in April.