A key Los Angeles City Council committee approved the membership of the city?s Department of Water & Power (DWP) in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). The council sets rules to maintain open access to the grid and reliable electricity service in 14 Western states and parts of Canada and Mexico. The full city council still must approve the membership, but that is considered perfunctory after this week?s vote by the city?s Commerce, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee. The Los Angeles DWP will pay $313,000 a year to belong to the 154-member organization, which covers a 1.8 million-square-mile area home to 71 million people and 131,000 MW of generation capacity. The department?s John Schumann told the committee that membership will minimize the chance of blackouts because the council ensures adequate backup generation capacity throughout the West and open access to the grid to transmit power where needed. Schumann also reassured the committee that the city will not have to cede any control over its system because of a required change in the council?s bylaws at the department?s insistence. The change clarifies that membership does not require participation in any regional transmission organization or submission to any Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirements. With its 5,330 miles of transmission lines and major interests in generation facilities in the West, the department is one of the last major utilities to join the council, said Kwin Peterson, WECC spokesperson. The only other major utility yet to join, he said, is Avista Corp., which is headquartered in Spokane, Washington, and serves 325,000 electric customers in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. The council was formed in 2002 when the Western Systems Coordinating Council merged with the Southwest Regional Transmission Association and the Western Regional Transmission Association. Since the merger, the department has participated in the new council?s activities only on an unofficial basis.