New WECC Head Sees ?Containable? Grid Control Areas

By Published On: October 11, 2003

Former Vermont utility regulator Louise McCarren, who recently worked for a company charged with improper accounting practices, will become the Western Electricity Coordinating Council?s (WECC) new chief executive officer October 20. McCarren declined to say whether she would push for regional transmission organizations or whether she thought the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) should continue to stand apart from such regional bodies. According to the council?s stated policies, WECC supports competition and open access and is a forum for transmission access disputes in the Western United States. McCarren noted the differences between California?s market and CAISO?s control area. But when asked whether the depth of the market is adequate, she would say only, ?the jury is still out.? The size of control areas must be ?visible and containable? yet large enough for a sustainable market. ?It needs to be small enough so the humans who operate them can see? what is going on at any time to maintain reliability, she said. McCarren recognizes that California has its own culture and rules in the electricity business but said that the state ?has to be integrated into the rest of the West??though how this would occur and to what extent remains to be determined. ?All entities in the West need to find common ground,? she added, referring generically to what in the industry are known as ?seams issues.? WECC has been an unassuming entity in the past with chief executive Dennis Eyre at the helm. The mammoth East Coast blackout in July, however, appears to have upset the previous calm and has pushed reliability to the forefront. Still, McCarren didn?t say that the council would have a higher profile as a result. WECC has 156 members, covering most of the Western U.S. McCarren, who has been entangled in the oversight of questionable business dealings, may be grateful if a blackout is the only difficulty she faces in her new job. Most recently, she served as chair of the board for Fletcher Allen, a company that the state of Vermont accused of hiding $55 million related to construction of a parking garage. That number blossomed to $81 million as the state?s investigations proceeded. Fletcher Allen reportedly agreed to pay $320,000 in fines to resolve the matter. Last year, former governor Howard Dean called the company?s executives ?crooks,? and eight members of the board resigned en masse earlier this year. McCarren was on the ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations. ?There was a comprehensive and deliberate attempt to lie to regulators and obfuscate to the board,? she said. McCarren has served on the board of the New England Independent System Operator and was chair of the Vermont Public Service board during the 1980s.

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