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Explore Energy is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

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Variable Power, Reliability, and Weather in the West

Luke Veit '25, Economics
Undergraduate Fellow
Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC).


Luke Veit at his desk at WECC

The Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) plays an important role in partnering with utilities, balancing authorities, and stakeholders across the Western Interconnection to facilitate reliable power delivery. Their mission is purely to ensure that electricity keeps flowing across the transmission lines in the West. They do this by doing compliance monitoring and setting standards for generators to follow. In their dual role as compliance authority and planning partner, they walk a fine line between friend and (perceived) foe to participating organizations. WECC collects copious amounts of data from balancing authorities and reliability coordinators as well as generators themselves to run internal studies. 

Map of Regional Coordinators under NERC
"Map of Regional Coordinators under NERC" - Source: NERC

My partner Julio and I are working with some of that data to explore the ways in which weather affects variable (specifically wind and solar) generation. Variable generation can be tricky to rely on during unusual weather conditions, and the interconnection would like to understand why it doesn’t perform to the expected, necessary, or accredited limit. So far, our project has consisted of obtaining and cleaning data–no easy feat when there are thousands of potential variables and hundreds of thousands of observations! We are hoping to move farther into analysis in the coming weeks by running regression tests for statistical significance on some of those variables and developing metrics as proxies for reliability to measure underperformance. 

I have been working in person, and I start off my day by arriving at the newly renovated and very cool, but pretty empty, WECC offices in Salt Lake City. I meet with Julio and our mentor Tim Reynolds to talk about progress and what we want to get done for the day. Usually, we will have another meeting about the interconnection in the afternoon covering topics as far ranging as the number of decimal places for frequency measurements to meetings on security risks and event analysis. Then, I hunt for data on network drives and NOAA databases, create visuals to help build intuition for what's going on in the background, or map out strategies for analysis. 

One thing that I found interesting is the emphasis at WECC on modernizing. WECC is in the midst of renovating their offices to accommodate increased remote work, updating their networks for greater cybersecurity, and creating novel data collection procedures to facilitate research. The utility and energy industry at large definitely has space to adopt some of the recent technological innovations in data analysis. These organizations also expressed a desire to hire more young people to replace an aging workforce. 

On the weekends, I get out into the nearby mountains or roadtrip to surrounding national parks. Salt Lake City is a great place to spend time outdoors, hike, run, and exercise; I am enjoying my time WECC and look forward to the rest of the summer!