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Community Activity Room™ as a New Tool for Transmission

Operation and Planning Under A Competitive Power Market

Stephen T. Lee, Senior Member, IEEE
EPRI, 3412 Hillview Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA

Abstract – A power market is a community of electricity.
Participants would benefit from knowing the effect of
transmission limitations on their activities in that community. The
Community Activity Room
™ ™™ ™
is a concept for treating these limits
as walls of a room within which market activities can freely take
place. The ability to analytically describe and visualize the
Community Activity Room in the state space of net interregional
power exports will enable greater understanding of the need for
more inter-state transmission superhighways. This metaphor will
also enable transmission planning and operation for a large
interconnected power system to evolve to the next generation of
probabilistic power system reliability assessment and integration
of reliability and market efficiency. This paper describes this
concept and illustrates its potential applications with some

I ndex Terms – Power System Reliability, Power
Transmission Control, Power System Planning, Power System
Recent changes in the North American electric power industry
have caused dramatic increases in the use of the transmission
system. Transmission planning and operation have become an
increasingly important topic due to the transmission
bottlenecks and the curtailment of wholesale power
transactions as a result of congestion. Planners and operators
face tremendous challenges to maintain reliability and
facilitate efficient power market operation.
High-voltage transmission lines are needed for interstate
wholesale power transactions, just like highways are needed
for commerce. Transmission lines, based on their designs, can
only carry up to a certain amount of power, measured in MWs.
They may be due to thermal rating limits or to voltage or
stability limits. Regardless of the location and amount of
generators connected to the transmission grid, there are certain
hard limits on the amount of inter-state power transactions and
local network load service that can take place through these
existing transmission lines. These limits can be visualized as
walls, ceilings or floors (for simplicity, these will be referred
to as walls) that define the boundary of a Community Activity
Room (CAR) within which inter-state power transactions can
freely take place. The size of the room available for inter-state

The Community Activity Room (CAR) is a trademark of EPRI.
power transactions depend on the amount of local loads that
also use the same transmission lines. This is much like local
traffic using inter-state highways for local trips and causing
congestion during rush hours.

Figure 1 – Example of a 3-D Community Activity Room
(G1, G2 and G3 are net exports from region 1, 2 and 3,
for a 4-region system)

The number of dimensions defining the space of the
Community Activity Room exceeds the three dimensions of
the physical space in which human beings live. However, the
analogy is the same. These dimensions are the independent
amounts of power different areas wish to export above and
beyond their local needs, or in the opposite direction, the
amount of power they would like to import into their areas.
The parties that engage in power transactions with one
another, including generators, transmission owners, grid
operators, traders, load-serving entities, and ultimately the
customers constitute the community of electricity. Thus, the
Community Activity Room defines all possible combinations
of net import and net export for the different areas of that
community which would not run into the walls of the
Community Activity Room, in other words, the hard
0-7803-7967-5/03/$17.00 ©2003 IEEE
Paper accepted for presentation at 2003 IEEE Bologna Power Tech Conference, June 23th-26th, Bologna, Italy

transmission limits. Figure 1 shows an example of a 3-D
Community Activity Room for a system with four
interconnected regions.
The particular combination of net imports and net exports for
the areas within the community define the current operating
point, as a location inside the Community Activity Room.
Imagine that the current location is represented by a floating
light bulb that is lit. The wholesale power market drives the
movement of the floating bulb inside the CAR. The traffic
controller in the CAR is the grid operator whose job is to
monitor the location of the floating light bulb and to keep it
from crashing into hard walls. The consequence of it may be a
blackout. However, there are hard walls as well as soft walls.
Hard walls are constraints that involve immediate overloads or
immediate voltage violations. Soft walls are walls that will
move from outside to the predicted positions because of
outage contingencies. In other words, it is a hard wall that is
currently farther away but will slam into the predicted position
when some critical outage happens.
In summary, the concept of the Community Activity Room is
very powerful for communication with the public and also for
transmission operators and transmission planners to do a better
job of operation and planning.
This paper provides the mathematical basis for the Community
Activity Room and also illustrates its potential applications
through some examples.
The concept for the CAR is based on the steady-state security
region, which can be formulated in both a full AC power flow
model and a linearized DC power flow model. For the purpose
of this article, the simpler DC model is used.
In a previous paper [1], the author described the mathematical
basis for the steady-state security regions using a set-theoretic
approach. The idea was to use the net MW power injections at
each bus as the independent variables and express the line
flows in terms of these variables. This eliminates the
intermediate step of computing bus voltages and angles as
would normally be required to solve a load flow. With the
direct equations relating line flows to bus injections, it is then
possible to express the line flow inequality constraints as
functions of bus injections.
The intersection of all these inequalities define the Community
Activity Room under the assumption of normal network
topology, i.e., without any branch (line or transformer) or
generator outages.
When branch outage possibilities are considered, the
inequalities would be different, reflecting the bus impedance
matrix for the post-outage network. An efficient algorithm is
well known for updating the impedance matrix for a single
branch outage. Therefore, the same form of inequalities
applies for different branch outage conditions.
With the traditional deterministic planning and operating
criteria which require that no overloads exist for any single
branch outage contingency, the steady-state security region, or
the Community Activity Room’s boundary, is defined to be the
intersection of all sets of constraints for the normal topology
and for all single branch contingency conditions.
For a large network, the number of these constraints is huge.
Fortunately, most of these constraints are redundant and can be
filtered. The relationships among the normal operating region,
the branch contingency security region and the generator
contingency security region are shown in Figure 2,
Normal Operating Region
Generator Contingency
Security Region
Branch Contingency
Security Region

Figure 2 Steady-State Security Region

A. Visualization of Reliability
The formulation of the steady-state security region has the
drawback that it defines reliability as a discrete pass or fail
criterion. If the operating point lies inside the intersection of
all the constraints, it is considered secure or reliable. If it is
outside, it is considered insecure or unreliable.
With the use of computer graphics to paint the outsides of the
constraints according to the degree of reliability impacts, and
to sum them up for each point of the state space, it is possible
to define a level of the reliability impacts or reliability indices
for each point of the state space. Using color to represent
different levels of these reliability impacts or indices, it is then

possible to visualize the degree of reliability as a complete
characterization of the Community Activity Room.
This paper describes the technique for combining the method
of Probabilistic Reliability Assessment (PRA) developed by
the author, in collaboration with researchers from Electricite
de France [2,3], with the Community Activity Room concept
for computing the PRI for the entire state space. The examples
in this paper were based on a system with 40,000 buses, but
only some aspects of the results are shown.
B. Visualization of Deterministic Criteria
The author applied this idea in a program called the CAR
Painter. The initial visualization effort did not include the
probabilities. Each contingency is given the same weight.
Therefore, the Community Activity Room thus painted
conforms to current deterministic operating criteria, which
require that all single contingencies must not result in any
thermal overloads or voltage violations. An example of this
visualization is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 – Community Activity Room Painted as Potential
Overload Levels (Deterministic Criteria) Shown in Color
Bands of 100 MW Steps, with SW Export = 0

In Figure 3, the horizontal axis represents net export out of the
NW region, and the vertical axis represents net export out of
the NE region. The SW net export is zero for all points in
Figure 3. The system shown in Figure 3 consists of four
regions connected to one another only. Therefore, the SE
region’s net export can be determined from the net exports of
the NW, NE and SW regions by the following equation:
SE Export = – NW Export – NE Export – SW Export (11)
The white zone in Figure 3 shows the state space within which
no constraint is violated, i.e., no potential overloads due to
contingencies would occur. The blue zone shows where up to
100 MW of potential overloads may happen, if the system
operates in that zone. The yellow zone shows the state space
where between 100 to 200 MW of potential overloads may
occur, and so on, with 100 MW being the step size of each
color band.
The blue dot in the center of the chart is the current operating
point of the system, with no export or import out of or into any
of the four regions. The short black line segment in a short
distance from the operating point towards the upper right
direction marks the location of the point on the closest wall
(constraint) as projected onto this plane where SW export = 0.
It is not located right on the boundary between the white and
the blue zones because the Community Activity Room in this
four-region system is three-dimensional and the walls of the
room may be inclined at an angle and not vertical. In this
example, the closest wall is inclined towards the center of the
room, which is why the closest point on that wall from the
current operating point (which lies on the floor of this room, or
the plane with SW export = 0) is somewhere above the floor.
Therefore, when that point is projected vertically downward to
the floor, it is away from the edge where the wall meets the
floor (which is the boundary line between the white and the
blue zones.)
C. Probabilistic Reliability Indices
In the past, attempts to compute a Probabilistic Reliability
Index or Indices for a combined generation and transmission
system have failed to provide a practical method. Defining
transmission reliability in terms of Expected Unserved Energy,
even though would be consistent with similar measures applied
to generation system reliability, turned out to require too much
details in the modeling of mitigation measures which in real-
life take place before customer load is dropped. In this new era
of decoupled ownership of generation and transmission
facilities and the separation between transmission and
distribution companies, it is the view of this author that
transmission reliability needs not get down to the measurement
of impacts in terms of loss of customer load. In the analogy of
airlines, air traffic congestion is rarely the cause of loss of
passenger lives, therefore it would not make sense to measure
air traffic efficiency by loss of passenger lives. Rather, it
makes more sense to measure air traffic performance by
congestion and time delay, weighted by the number of affected
Likewise, the key physical performance measures of a
transmission grid is thermal overloads (or excedence of
stability limits measured by line flows), low voltages at
delivery points, and voltage collapse or dynamic instability.
EPRI developed a practical method to define and compute
performance indices based on these three types of undesirable
reliability impacts and combine them with probabilistic factors
that correctly and consistently recognize the different

contingencies that may cause these impacts. As described in
papers [2] and [3], this probabilistic factor is called the
Normalized Coefficient of Probability or NCP.

j i
OUT c i
c a
c u
) (
) (
N (1)
Where: u(c
) is the unavailability of component c
) is the availability of component c

) + a(c
) = 1, for every component c
is the set of independent components c

which are simulated for situation j

The Normalized Coefficient of Probability is not, properly
speaking, a probability, but the ratio of two probabilities. It is
the unavailability of the component(s) divided by the
unavailability of the component(s). A Risk Index, e.g., for
thermal overloads, is defined by the sum of the products of the
NCP and the associated thermal overloads for all simulated
outage situations, as shown in the following equation.
{ }

× = −
Situations Simulated j
with OVimpact expressed in MVA or MW.

In practice, simultaneous independent failures of multiple
components have exponentially diminishing probabilities.
Therefore, with an engineering approach to the problem of
estimating the risk index, it is only necessary to identify those
components the failures of which, singly or in combination,
have significant probabilities and significant impacts.
This method for Probabilistic Reliability Assessment provides
a transition from the deterministic contingency criteria and
makes use of the power of fast contingency simulation with
probabilistic calculation.
D. Probabilistic Reliability Criterion
In fact, the highly difficult problem of defining and agreeing
on a particular satisfactory level of Probabilistic Reliability
Criterion for transmission planning and operation is now
possible. The reasoning is as follows.
Because utilities have operated for years using the
deterministic criterion of single contingency for
transmission outages, it is possible to translate that
criterion into a probabilistic reliability index level by
computing the PRI along the single contingency walls of the
Community Activity Room and averaging them to a single
In order to do this calibration, it is necessary to characterize an
advanced Community Activity Room in a probabilistic way,
which paints the color bands as ranges of PRI values. Then, by
integrating and averaging the PRI values along the walls of the
deterministic Community Activity Room, one can calibrate the
equivalence of the deterministic contingency criterion as a PRI
level. With this equivalence established, by operating to this
new PRI level, the true reliability performance of the grid will
be comparable to the past experience of operating under the
deterministic contingency criterion.
E. Visualization of Probabilistic Community Activity Room
By combining NCPs with the overload equations derived for
the deterministic Community Activity Room, the Risk Index
(PRI) values for all points in the state space can be computed
and painted in color bands. For illustration, by assuming the
same value of NCP for all single contingencies, the same
system shown in Figure 3 was painted showing the Risk Index
(PRI) values in color bands. This is shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7 – Probabilistic Community Activity Room
with SW Export = 0 MW and Each Color Band = 0.3 MW of
PRI. (Note: the border between the blue and the yellow zones
is the line with PRI=0.3 MW)

More research is needed to validate this concept and develop a
practical analysis tool for large systems. Figure 7 is based on
about 100 active constraints and the NCP values were generic
estimates assumed to be equal for all contingencies. The white
zone represents PRI=0 and corresponds exactly to the white
zone in Figure 3. In deriving Figure 7, contingencies with
order two and higher were not simulated. If they were, even
though their NCP values would be small, the white zone would
be smaller, and the border between the white and the blue zone
would not be the same as that in Figure 3. In fact, by
integrating the values of PRI along the border (or the surface)
of the white zone in Figure 3, using the values of PRI in Figure
7, will produce a value to equate the traditional deterministic

single-contingency criterion with the probabilistic reliability
criterion, as discussed previously. Another way of looking at
Figure 7 is to see the border between the blue and the yellow
zones as a reliability boundary at the constant PRI value of 0.3
MW. If it is determined by a reliability organization that it is
sufficient for an operator to maintain a reliability level of PRI
<= 0.3 MW, then the white and blue zones represent safe areas
for operation, and the border between the blue and the yellow
zones represents a reliability wall of the Community Activity
This effect is shown in another example illustrated in Figures 8
and 9, where Figure 6 shows only N-1 contingencies and
Figure 9 shows also N-2 contingencies. The border enclosing
the white area represents the boundary of operation which
respects the loss of a single transmission line. In Figure 9, with
both N-1 and N-2 contingencies simulated and the NCPs are
used to compute the PRI, the white area becomes smaller, and
the same border superimposed on Figure 9 shows that
respecting N-1 criteria (staying on the inside of that border)
incurs risks due to N-2 contingencies. Thus, if the system has
accepted N-1 criteria as satisfactory reliability, then one can
compute the average PRI along that border in Figure 9, or in
such modeling which incorporates all higher-order
contingencies as well.
Figure 8 – Probabilistic Community Activity Room
with only N-1 Contingencies
Therefore, it can be observed that if the community adopts a
probabilistic reliability criterion, it opens up the possibility of
enlarging the interior of the Community Activity Room using a
quantitative and consistent reliability measure. It will also
enable the community to trade off between reliability levels
and economic benefits from greater amounts of wholesale
power transactions.

Figure 9 – Probabilistic Community Activity Room
with N-1 and N-2 Contingencies

When an online Probabilistic Community Activity Room is
displayed for the entire community to see, it is quite
conceivable that reliability can be turned into an equivalent
energy product that has a monetary value. For example, parties
who would benefit from additional wholesale transactions
among themselves could determine that with their proposed
transactions, the operating point would violate the reliability
criterion by a certain amount, as seen in the Probabilistic
Community Activity Room. They also know the monetary
benefits to them. If an insurance policy can be bought based on
the additional risk and over the duration of the new
transactions, and the premium is less than the value of the
transactions, it may be an economical decision to proceed with
the transactions. Self insurance and commercial insurance
policies are both possible ways of enabling the tradeoff
between reliability and wholesale power transactions.
This article has provided the foundation for the concept and
the technology of the Community Activity Room applied to
transmission operation and planning. The author believes that
the concept has tremendous potential for taking the power
industry into the next generation of tools for both operation
and planning. The key features of this technology are as
• It captures a complicated problem with huge dimensions
into something visualized in aggregated dimensions.
• It changes the mind-set of doing analysis based on an
operating point (or limited number of points) to a new
mind-set of analytically representing all operating points
in the state space.

• It enables the use of computer to pre-compute the
Community Activity Room for different network topology
conditions, and use the applicable views of the
Community Activity Room for online monitoring and
remedial actions. This enables instantaneous reliability
monitoring and faster operator guidance than what is
possible in today’s control centers.
• By displaying the online Community Activity Room in the
inter-regional dimensions for both the market participants
and the reliability authorities, it enables them to see the
close relationship between commercial activities and
reliability and it engenders the sense of community.
• It enables the computation of a Probabilistic Reliability
Index to jump from the current state of the art of a single
point computation to a complete characterization in the
entire state space.
• It enables a transition from deterministic transmission
reliability criteria to probabilistic transmission reliability
criteria, with a reasonable approach for setting an
equivalent probabilistic reliability standard.
• Eventually, when the availability and the quality of the
probabilistic data are adequate, the Probabilistic
Community Activity Room will create a new market for
reliability insurance and tradable reliability products.

[1] E. Hnyilicza, S. T. Y. Lee, F. C. Schweppe, “Steady-State
Security Regions: Set-Theoretic Approach,” Proceedings
of the IEEE PICA Conference, pp. 347-355, 1975.
[2] V. Sermanson, N. Maruejouls, S. Lee, et al, “Probabilistic
Reliability Assessment of the North American Eastern
Interconnection Transmission Grid,” CIGRE, 2002.
[3] N. Maruejouls, V. Sermanson, and S. Lee, “Probabilistic
Reliability Assessment Application to the U.S. Eastern
Interconnection,” EdF/EPRI, 2002.

Stephen T. Lee (M’69, SM’75) is Senior
Technical Leader, Grid Operations and
Planning, in EPRI. Dr. Lee has over 30
years of power industry experience. He
received his S.B., S.M. and Ph.D. degrees
from M.I.T. in Electrical Engineering,
majoring in Power System Engineering. He
worked for Stone & Webster Engineering in
Boston, Systems Control, Inc. (now ABB) in
California, and he was Vice President of
Consulting for Energy Management
Associates (EMA). Before joining EPRI in
1998, Dr. Lee was an independent
Consultant in utility planning and operation. At EPRI, Stephen Lee is leading
technical research programs for grid operations and planning. He is also
active in cooperative projects with the North American Electric Reliability
Council (NERC) related to interregional operation and planning. He has been
actively developing new concepts and tools for power system operation and
probabilistic transmission planning.