Transmission projects – and renewable energy – in the Midwest got a big boost from the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator's (MISO) board of directors Thursday when it unanimously voted to approve its Transmission Expansion Plan 2011 (MTEP11), which includes what MISO calls multi-value projects (MVPs).
MTEP11, a long-term regional plan for the electric grid that was developed during an 18-month process, recommends 215 new projects, including 16 MVPs that provide regional benefits commensurate with costs and support state and federal energy policy objectives approved in the MISO region.
The entire MTEP11 will cost approximately $6.5 billion, according to MISO.
MTEP11 is expected to create $15.5 billion to $49.2 billion in net-present-value economic benefits over a 20- to 40-year time frame, according to MISO. The transmission projects are expected help to keep energy costs under control, according to Clair Moeller, vice president of transmission asset management at MISO.
‘Our best tool to keep those costs in check is a competitive marketplace,’ he said during a press conference. ‘The best tool to keep the market competitive is to ensure that there is a sufficient transmission grid so generators can, in fact, compete with each other.’
A typical MTEP is usually worth approximately $1.5 billion, according to Moeller, who said that ‘this year is bigger than normal’ due to the inclusion of MVPs, which add an another $5 billion to the price tag.
‘The benefits of these projects exceed their costs by nearly two to one and those benefits are spread fairly evenly across the MISO marketplace,’ Moeller said.
It is estimated that the MVPs will deliver between 1.8 and three times more benefits than costs, according to MISO. For the average residential customer, that translates to an investment of about $11 a year in order to receive the annual benefit of $23 in lower energy costs.
On Oct. 20, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reaffirmed its approval of a proposal by MISO to plan and pay for MVPs through cost allocation. FERC gave initial approval to the MISO proposal in December 2010, saying it was just and reasonable, and represents a package of reforms that will enable MISO and its stakeholders to identify transmission projects that provide sufficient regional benefits to warrant regional cost allocation.
Wind on the Wires (WOW), a regional transmission advocacy group, applauded the decision.
‘We couldn't be more pleased by this action, which is a testament to MISO's commitment to constructing new transmission lines in the Midwest to, among other things, enable additional renewable energy to enter the market,’ Beth Soholt, executive director of WOW, stated in a press release. ‘The decision also allows many consumers to benefit from the low cost and clean energy that comes from wind development and a robust transmission grid that can deliver electricity back and forth across the region depending on where the power is needed.’
Many of the MTEP projects will carry wind power to load centers. ITC Transmission, a subsidiary of ITC Holdings Corp., received approval from MISO for its Thumb Loop high-voltage electric transmission-line project in August 2010. The project is intended to deliver wind power from Michigan's Thumb region to demand centers.
South Dakota's Brookings transmission line, also slated to carry wind power to load centers, received conditional approval in June.
‘The upper Midwest has some of the highest wind power potential in the entire world, but it cannot be utilized without significantly expanding the transmission system,’ Joe DeVito, WOW chairman of the board and vice president of development for RES Americas, said in a press release. ‘Wind power is now one of the cheapest forms of new electric generation, and MISO has demonstrated tremendous leadership by proposing a visionary expansion plan that will tap into the power of wind.’
The projects must now go before respective state public commissions to receive state approvals and permits in order to begin construction. MISO estimates that all of the projects will be complete within five to seven years.
‘The portfolio of multi-value projects will not only improve regional reliability, but it also will create up to 39,800 construction and 74,000 total annual jobs and generate up to $49.2 billion in benefits from the use of lower-cost generation and reductions in energy wasted through transmission losses,’ John R. Bear, president and CEO of MISO, said in a press release.