During the World War II, America was in desperate need of production capacity that could produce massive quantities of aluminum to help build airplanes and other machinery that were vital to the country’s defense. In Arkansas, an aluminum factory under government contracts used close to 120,000 kilowatts of power to produce massive amounts of aluminum to support the war effort. That’s a lot of electricity.
At that time in our history, there was not enough fuel resources to produce enough electricity to keep this kind of manufacturing operation alive. So, in 1941, 11 different utilities and power companies joined forces and shared their power to keep this operation alive. And help win the war. This shared regional and collaborative effort evolved into what we now know as the Southwest Power Pool.
After the war, different power interruptions in the Northeast caused the creators of the SPP to start this regional transmission organization to help ensure the reliability of electric delivery across the region – literally, done to help keep the lights on.
Today, the SPP is one of nine of these organizations that exist in the United States to ensure regional reliability. Expanding across nine states including Oklahoma, the SPP helps coordinate reliability in electricity delivery and also coordinate regional responses in emergency or blackout situations. A critical part of this reliability function is transmission that allows utility companies and power generators across the SPP to access transmission lines across the grid.
This open market grid also enhances the market competitiveness in power generation. In perspective, if necessary, Oklahoma could call on electric generation from Arkansas to help us during a disaster. Or, as the market evolves, natural gas power plants and wind power producers in Oklahoma could easily sell their power to other utility companies or customers across the region.
Recently, Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy was elected vice president of the SPP Regional State Committee. This group has a key function in helping advise and direct the future of the regional electric power grid. Each of the nine states has one commissioner serving on this committee and that group sets the compass for this region. Its decisions are as significant as keeping our region powered and as personal as price effects for that kilowatt coming through your home’s wall outlet.
As the SPP continues to grow and expand its transmission network, there will be even more cost effects to ratepayers and consumers across the region, including those of us in Oklahoma. We are incredibly fortunate to have Murphy on this committee to advocate for consumers and guide the SPP forward as our region faces greater scrutiny under federal environmental regulations, while also helping prop up Oklahoma’s native resources in power generation like natural gas and wind.
I’m happy to say that her hard work, which we’ve witnessed here in Oklahoma, is now also going to a larger stage, where Oklahoma’s native blessings need and deserve a clarion voice.
Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.