By Amanda Durish Cook
MISO’s Planning Advisory Committee will vote through Oct. 26 on whether to move most of the RTO’s $3.3 billion 2018 Transmission Expansion Plan forward, while holding off on considering approval for three projects because of stakeholder concerns.
The PAC agreed to consider 439 of 442 projects in its email ballot, reserving three for additional stakeholder comment next week. The committee’s vote will take place via email until 4 p.m. EDT on Oct. 26. The committee was originally slated to take a position on MTEP 18 during its Oct. 17 conference call, but it delayed the vote to address stakeholder concerns with projects.
The portfolio, which was updated late last week with more projects, now contains 81 baseline reliability projects, 16 generator interconnection projects, two transmission deliverability service projects and two targeted market efficiency projects with PJM. (See MISO, PJM Endorsing 2 TMEPs for Year-end Approval.)
Most projects fall under MISO’s “other” designation: those chosen by transmission owners and reviewed by the RTO that are not eligible for cost allocation and represent replacement of aging infrastructure, construction because of local reliability needs or modifications made for environmental purposes. The portfolio will be considered for approval at MISO’s year-end Board of Directors meeting in December. An earlier version contained 434 transmission projects valued at $3 billion. (See MISO Recommending $3B MTEP 18 Draft Plan.)
The three problematic projects that won’t make the PAC vote include an $11 million rebuild of the Wabaco-Rochester 161-kV line in southern Minnesota, which was identified in this year’s market congestion planning study. MISO claims that the project will yield a 6.8:1 benefit-cost ratio, but stakeholders are skeptical of that estimate.
The Wabaco-Rochester line already experiences congestion, with increased traffic expected from wind generation coming online. Some stakeholders have said the project should be delayed in favor of a future larger project.
Others suggested that the amount of future wind generation driving the project’s benefits might not ultimately be able to connect.
“We do not support the results on this project,” Xcel Energy’s Drew Siebenaler said. “A lot of our reasoning is coming from study results that are CEII [critical energy/electric infrastructure information], so I can’t disclose them in public comments.”
MISO staff said the RTO continues to believe Wabaco-Rochester is a beneficial project and that it studied higher voltage alternatives before drawing that conclusion.
Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Terry Torgerson said the cooperative’s lawyer would be reaching out to MISO with its concerns over the project. “We’ve had discussions with MISO many, many times, and we feel we’re getting nowhere,” Torgerson said.
Entergy’s Yarrow Etheredge asked for more discussion and a possible email vote to find out if stakeholders support the project. MISO ultimately opened a longer stakeholder comment period on it.
Kavita Maini, economist for Midwest Industrial Customers, said the MTEP18 report seems incomplete because MISO is still considering alternatives to American Transmission Co.’s Straits of Mackinaw project.
MISO executives in September said they were still weighing alternatives to ATC’s proposal to replace a 138-kV circuit connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas after two submarine cables were damaged in April, most likely by a passing vessel. ATC said one of the cables was rendered permanently inoperable. (See ATC Restores Tx Link Between Michigan Peninsulas.)
“You’re right, that’s a project whose final recommendation is still in progress with MISO,” said Jeff Webb, the RTO’s senior director of expansion planning.
Webb said the RTO will continue to work with the parties involved on the project and will deliver an update at the Nov. 13 meeting of the System Planning Committee of the Board of Directors. For now, the project has encountered “complicated siting issues at the straits,” though MISO still expects to recommend a replacement of the underwater cables, he said.
Stakeholders have submitted alternatives to the straits project that include battery storage, relocating generators from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula, tunneling the cables in bedrock below the lake, connecting to Ontario’s grid and constructing a new gas-fired plant near Mackinac.
“We still have hopes of having this resolved before the December recommendation to the Board of Directors, but there is a possibility that it could linger beyond that,” Webb said.
“It doesn’t seem right to vote on this today when the projects aren’t fully vetted,” Maini said.
WPPI Energy’s Steve Leovy said ITC Midwest’s $11 million line and transformer project at the Walters 161/69-kV substation in southern Minnesota was also under evaluation against alternatives, with MISO choosing one such alternative instead of the originally proposed project.
Webb agreed that MISO should update the MTEP report to reflect the change, and the original project was removed from PAC voting consideration.