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MISO board approves estimated $2.7 billion in wires projects

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator Board of Directors on Thursday approved the system's latest transmission expansion plan with 383 new projects spread across the grid operator's sprawling footprint, estimated to cost almost $2.7 billion.

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As part of the System Planning Committee report to the board, committee Chairman Mike Evans presented the MISO Transmission Expansion Plan 16, which includes projects needed to be in place by 2024 for reliability, generation interconnection, transmission delivery, market efficiency and local issues.

In particular, 106 projects estimated to cost about $691.2 million are needed for baseline reliability, 32 projects estimated to cost about $142.7 million are for generation interconnection, one project estimated to cost about $108 million is for market efficiency, one transmission delivery service project estimated to cost about $350,000 and 243 projects estimated to cost about $1.8 billion are needed for local issues.

Of the 10 most costly MTEP16 projects, four are in Louisiana, two are in Iowa, two are in Wisconsin, and one each is in Minnesota and Texas.



The overall total estimated cost is split among MISO's four planning regions as follows:

--East, including the northern half of Indiana and most of Michigan -- $564 million;

--Central, including most of Illinois, the southern half of Indiana and parts of Kentucky and Missouri -- $159.5 million;

--South, including most of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, plus parts of East Texas -- $939.1 million; and

--West, including Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, part of eastern Montana, North Dakota, northeastern South Dakota and Wisconsin -- $1 billion.

Evans, who is one of three directors retiring from the board Thursday, said MTEP16 is "a snapshot in time, and the planning effort is always evolving" in response to the changing generation fleet and increasing "uncertainty around policy goals" after the 2016 presidential election.

On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a staunch critic of the US Environmental Protection Agency, to head that agency which promulgated the Clean Power Plan, a plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by existing electricity generators by 32% by 2030. Pruitt is among those who spearheaded an effort to challenge the legality of the Clean Power Plan, the implementation of which is now suspended pending the outcome of that litigation.

Regarding Trump's election, Evans said MISO "staff is looking at possible impacts on carbon regulation and what those impacts would mean to MISO members."

It appears that "the direction of change is much the same, but the degree and pace of change varies from scenario to scenario," Evans said.

RESERVE MARGIN CONCERN

In a related matter, Jennifer Curran, MISO vice president for system planning and seams coordination, said in a written report that the ISO "forecasts the reserve margin will drop below the Planning Reserve Margin Requirement of 15.2 percent beginning 2018 absent additional actions by load serving entities and state commissions."

The board also approved for 2017 a $238.6 million operating budget and a $29.9 million capital budget. The 2016 operating budget was $226.7 million and the projected capital expenses for 2016 totaled $31 million.

In addition to Evans, who is a former president and chief operating officer of Consolidated Edison of New York, retiring board members include Chairwoman Judy Walsh, who has previously served on the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Paul Feldman, a former top-level executive at AT&T, Novell, Geo-Utilities, Columbia Energy, UtiliCorp United and AES.

The new board members taking their place in January will be HB "Trip" Doggett, former president and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; Barbara Krumsiek, former president and CEO of Calvert Investments; and Todd Raba, a former chairman, president and CEO of Johns Manville and former president of MidAmerican Energy, of which both are Berkshire Hathaway companies.

The board also approved a new compensation package for board members designed to increase pay by $4,000 a year. Under the old plan, board members were paid, in effect, $70,000 plus $1,500/meeting, plus $15,000 for the board chairman and $7,500 for committee chairmen. Under the new plan, board members will be paid $89,000 a year, designed to compensate for six meetings, plus $2,000 per additional meeting and the same amounts as before for the board and committee chairmen.

--Mark Watson, Markham.watson@spglobal.com

--Edited by Richard Rubin, richard.rubin@spglobal.com