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Opening Midwestern grid access

A transmission path between the wind resources of Iowa and Minnesota and the more densely populated regions to the east may have been opened with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval of the formation of a Midwest Independent System Operator (ISO). The approval, granted on September 16, clears the way for equal access rules across a 13 state region. The states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio have a combined population of 29 million, but have generally inferior wind resources compared with states to the west. FERC Chairman James Hoecker also announced plans for a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) that would require an ISO or a for-profit transmission company (TransCo) in every region of the country by the end of 1999. Hoecker was speaking at last month's World Energy Congress in Houston. The Midwest ISO includes 12 utilities currently, stretching from Iowa and Missouri eastward to Ohio and Pennsylvania. It does not include all utilities within the region, a point noted by the FERC commissioners. Hoecker hoped more utilities would join the ISO, saying "we have something good that clearly can be better." The Midwest ISO will charge a single tariff for access to its 55,000 miles of transmission lines, eliminating the "pancaked" rates that resulted when transactions occurred across the lines of multiple utilities. The Midwest ISO is the fifth approved by FERC, joining the California, Texas, Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland and Northeast ISOs already in operation. While FERC cannot require a utility to join an ISO, it encourages them to. The Clinton Administration's restructuring bill would give FERC greater authority over transmission issues.

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