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MISO proposes $2.7B of investments in latest transmission expansion plan

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MISO proposes $2.7B of investments in latest transmission expansion plan

In its latest transmission expansion plan, the Midcontinent ISO recommends investments in 353 new projects worth a total of $2.7 billion, including what would be its second project awarded through competitive bidding.

MISO during an Oct. 18 Policy Advisory Committee meeting released a draft version of its latest Transmission Expansion Plan for 2017, called MTEP17, that proposes new or upgraded electric transmission projects that are needed to be in operation by 2024.

Though the draft report does include the roughly $130 million West of the Atchafalaya Basin, or WOTAB, a 500-kV project in Entergy Corp.'s service territory in western Louisiana and eastern Texas, MISO members were divided on whether to keep the project in the plan or delay its recommendation to MISO's board of directors in December. MISO officials decided to have members vote by email on whether to recommend the MTEP17 plan including the WOTAB project to the board. The grid operator, which manages power supply across 15 central states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, expects to release results of the vote on Oct. 26, MISO said by email after the committee meeting.

Most of the projects in MTEP17 involve building or upgrading transmission lines and equipment. Of the $2.7 billion, about $953 million is allotted for 76 baseline reliability projects which help MISO meet national reliability requirements. Most of them are in MISO's South region, which includes the Entergy service territory and many municipal and cooperative utilities interconnecting with it in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Eight of the 10 most expensive individual projects included in the draft report are in the MISO South region.

Another $1.4 billion will go toward 248 "other" projects that tend to serve local reliability or other public policy needs, MISO staff said in the report. The plan places roughly $238 million for generator interconnection, or projects to help connect new power plants to the grid. Furthermore, about $5 million is for five "targeted market efficiency" projects, which are high-value, low-cost interregional projects that reduce persistent congestion between power markets, according to the report. MISO is working with the PJM Interconnection and Southwest Power Pool grid operators to identify additional potential projects.

The WOTAB project includes a new 500/230-kV substation, new and reconfigured 500-kV and 230-kV transmission lines, and a new transformer at the new substation. It is the only market efficiency project included in the MTEP17 report. Market efficiency projects tend to have regional benefits and relieve congestion or transmission bottlenecks. To qualify in the market efficiency category, projects need to have benefits that outweigh their costs by a factor of 1.25, according to the report.

The WOTAB project, if recommended, would become MISO's second competitively bid project, after the 28-mile, 345-kV Duff-Coleman project in southern Indiana, to comply with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order 1000. That order required regional grid operators to open electric transmission development to competition and remove federal rights-of-first refusal, which gave the right to build, own and operate new transmission to incumbent utilities.

NRG Energy Inc. Director of Regulatory Affairs Tia Elliott said at the Oct. 18 committee meeting that the WOTAB project would benefit electric cooperatives served by NRG's Louisiana Generating affiliate by easing congestion and voltage issues. Though not necessarily against the project itself, Entergy and Xcel Energy Inc. raised concerns about the process in which the project was approved. Entergy commented that some of the assumptions MISO used to determine the economic benefits of the project do not reflect actual conditions, according to a summary contained in MISO's presentation. Xcel Energy also raised concerns about the weighting methodology that MISO used to calculate the costs and benefits of the project.

The draft MTEP17 plan is scheduled to be reviewed by MISO's System Planning Committee in November, according to MISO's presentation.