Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Texas PUC Briefs: Week of Oct. 27, 2018

By Tom Kleckner

ERCOT Re-evaluating Costly CenterPoint 345-kV Project

AUSTIN, Texas — ERCOT told the Texas Public Utility Commission last week that it will produce “higher quality estimates” for a major transmission project that raised the commissioners’ eyebrows with its escalating costs.

The Texas PUC’s Oct. 25 open meeting | © RTO Insider

Warren Lasher, the grid operator’s senior director of system planning, said during the PUC’s Oct. 25 open meeting that staff are refining its previous studies and analyzing alternatives to CenterPoint Energy’s proposed 345-kV line project in the industrial Freeport area south of Houston.

CenterPoint’s application for a certificate of convenience and necessity included 30 alternative routes, ranging from 53 to 84 miles in length and $481.7 million to $695.2 million in costs (Project No. 48629). ERCOT’s initial study indicated a project cost of $246.7 million, leading the commission in September to direct the grid operator to take a second look at its analysis. (See PUCT Urges 2nd Look at Freeport Project Costs.)

“We’re going to have to spend some quality time thinking through our confidence … in the cost estimates we have for the alternatives that are different from the ones we presented,” Lasher told the commissioners. “We’ll do our best to provide as good an information set as we can back to the commission.”

Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea questions ERCOT’s Warren Lasher (2nd from right). | © RTO Insider

Lasher said ERCOT is considering upgrading existing infrastructure as one alternative, which was rejected in the first study because it would create congestion “and the cost associated with congestion,” he said.

The commissioners agreed to wait on the analysis before issuing a preliminary order. Lasher said staff would need no more than three months to complete its work.

Hearing Set for Golden Spread Tx Cost of Service Case

The commission consented to a procedural schedule that sets a hearing for Golden Spread Electric Cooperative’s petition to reduce its transmission cost of service (TCOS) and wholesale transmission service rate (Docket 48500).

The PUC set a Dec. 21 discovery deadline, with a hearing scheduled Jan. 29-30 at the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

Golden Spread in June requested an annual TCOS of $2.42 million and an annual wholesale transmission rate of 3.6043 cents/kW-year to reflect the recent acquisition of transmission assets from Taylor Electric Cooperative.

Golden Spread’s last TCOS case, in 2011, resulted in an ERCOT transmission rate base of $2.54 million and a TCOS revenue requirement of $853,063.

PUC Passes Measure Modifying Energy Efficiency Savings

The PUC approved new “deemed savings” estimates for several utilities’ energy efficiency measures, which it said will “encourage additional energy efficiency projects” in the commercial and residential sectors and reduce the offerings’ expenses (Docket 48265).

The proposed calculations will serve as guidelines for estimating savings associated with the installation of program energy efficiency measures. The savings will be used to determine the incentive payments made to energy efficiency service providers.

The order applies to nonresidential door air infiltration and door gaskets for walk-in coolers and freezers, and for residential Energy Star-connected thermostats.

AEP Texas, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, El Paso Electric, Entergy Texas, Oncor, Southwestern Electric Power Co., Southwestern Public Service and Texas-New Mexico Power filed the request together.

MidAmerican Wind Increases Holdings to 2.7 GW

MidAmerican Wind has gained equity shares in a pair of wind farms, Blue Cloud Wind Energy’s facility near the Texas Panhandle (Docket 48386) and the Tahoka Wind Project near Lubbock (Docket 48429).

The PUC approved the transfer of undisclosed equity interests from the wind farms’ holding companies to MidAmerican Wind Tax Equity Holdings. MidAmerican owns 2.7 GW of installed generation capacity in ERCOT either directly or indirectly through affiliates or subsidiaries.

Blue Cloud will maintain a managing interest in its 148.35-MW project, which will interconnect with SPP through SPS’ transmission facilities. The 300-MW Tahoka project will connect with ERCOT through Sharyland Utilities.