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MISO board approves transmission plan but delays vote on competitive project

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MISO board approves transmission plan but delays vote on competitive project

The Midcontinent ISO's board of directors on Dec. 7 approved the grid operator's latest transmission expansion plan but delayed until February 2018 approval of a project to be awarded through a competitive process.

MISO's Transmission Expansion Plan 2017, or MTEP 17, details new transmission projects scheduled to be added over the next seven years in MISO's 15-state footprint. The approved plan recommends 354 new projects totaling about $2.7 billion of investment. The 500-kV West of the Atchafalaya Basin project, renamed Hartburg-Sabine Junction, stands out as the only "market efficiency" project proposed in the plan and once approved would become the second project that MISO would open for competitive bidding to meet the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order 1000, a landmark order requiring certain new transmission projects to be developed through competition.

On Dec. 5, MISO's System Planning Committee agreed with MISO staff to include the Hartburg-Sabine Junction project in the plan, but it recommended that the board defer approval until Feb. 5, 2018, when staff anticipates FERC will issue order creating cost allocation zones for Texas and Louisiana, committee chair Mark Johnson, also a MISO board member, said on Dec. 7. The Hartburg-Sabine project is projected to about $130 million. While the majority of the costs under the current allocation methodology would be assigned in Louisiana, most of the benefits are in Texas, Johnson said.

Given the push from state utility regulators in Texas and Louisiana, MISO officials in November asked FERC to approve dividing Louisiana and parts of Texas into separate local resource zones for the purpose of changing the way costs are allocated for market efficiency projects, the grid operator said in a Dec. 7 press release. Market efficiency projects aim to relieve transmission bottlenecks and have to meet certain requirements such as a benefits to costs ratio of 1.25. The Hartburg-Sabine project, expected in service in 2023, has a benefits-to-costs ratio of 1.35, according to a Dec. 5 MISO presentation.

The Hartburg-Sabine project includes a new 500/230-kV transformer and a new 500-kV line from Hartburg to a new 500/230-kV substation. Kent Fonvielle, executive director for MISO's South region, said in a statement that the project will "bring economic benefits to a transmission constrained area of Texas." The project is in Entergy Corp.'s service territory.

The MTEP 17 report includes a variety of projects. About $1.4 billion of spending is for "other" projects, which address local reliability issues, according to the report. Another $953 million is for "baseline reliability projects" that help the grid operator meet national reliability standards. Furthermore, $238 million are for projects that allow for interconnection of new generation projects. MISO allotted about $5 million is for "targeted market efficiency" projects that are low-cost, high-value projects to improve coordination with neighboring grids.

The targeted market efficiency projects "involve quick-implementation upgrades to reduce congestion across MISO-PJM seams," Jennifer Curran, MISO vice president of systems planning and seams coordination, said in a statement, referring to the PJM Interconnection.