Five generation and transmission cooperatives are founding members of the recently launched Southeast Energy Exchange Market, a new effort to help utilities integrate more renewable energy into their portfolios at lower, controlled costs.

SEEM, which serves utilities in 12 southeastern states from Missouri to Florida, “provides another tool to help more efficiently dispatch our generation resources,” said Lori Holt, senior vice president of fuels and co-owned assets at Oglethorpe Power.

Tucker, Georgia-based Oglethorpe Power and its related companies, Georgia Transmission and Georgia System Operations, joined SEEM to provide their 38 member distribution cooperatives with access to a larger market of participants committed to short-term or spot supply and demand, Holt said.

“We expect our membership in SEEM to lower costs for our members, optimize renewable energy resources and help maintain reliable service as more renewable generation resources are added to the electric grid,” she said.

Other G&Ts involved with SEEM include Springfield, Missouri-based Associated Electric Cooperative, Andalusia, Alabama-based PowerSouth Energy Cooperative and Raleigh-based North Carolina Electric Membership Corp. Seminole Electric Cooperative, based in Tampa, Florida, will join SEEM in January.

“We see access to this broader market as a complementary opportunity to our existing operations and portfolio management,” said Ryan Hart, Seminole’s director of communications and energy policy. “Seminole views SEEM and its access to intra-hour transactions as an additional way to optimize our power supply portfolio.”

Electricity trading under existing regional transmission organizations, independent system operators and bilateral markets is generally done on an hourly basis, but SEEM’s operations are based on 96 incremental transaction periods per day. Shortened commitments with increased frequency offer more flexibility to quickly respond to meet demand during extreme weather or periods when intermittent supplies of electricity from renewable resources are curtailed.

SEEM’s large footprint and the varied operational needs of its participants provide new transaction opportunities for resources, including renewables, to meet demand. The system is designed to utilize surplus transmission capacity, and its structure allows participating utilities to operate independently, without the bureaucracy and associated costs of organized markets.

“Our customers will realize the benefit of these low-cost renewable resources because, unlike the RTO regions, our market passes these cost savings directly to customers,” said SEEM spokesperson Demetrius Sherrod.

SEEM held its first annual meeting Dec. 2. Among its 23 inaugural participants are investor-owned operating units of the Southern Company, Duke Energy and Dominion Energy, Santee Cooper and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In its first few days of trading, 650 matches among buyers and sellers accounted for 13,000 megawatts of sales. Collectively, the participants have access to a transmission network serving about 60 million consumers.