NOTES

Xcel Making Headway on Transmission Expansions in New Mexico, Texas

Minnesota-based Xcel Energy updated its progress report on several transmission expansion projects in New Mexico and Texas.

According to the company release, Xcel Energy’s Power for the Plains transmission expansion in New Mexico and Texas is moving forward, with more than 50 miles of new transmission already completed this year, and construction underway on another 300 miles in the two states.

The Power for the Plains initiative is a series of projects aimed at expanding and updating the electric grid to improve electric reliability and meet growing demand for the delivery of new generation, including renewable energy.

“Xcel Energy is committed to building a long-term energy future that delivers value to our customers and our communities,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy—New Mexico.

“New Mexico is the fastest growing region across Xcel Energy’s eight-state territory, and in the last year and a half, we have invested in new and upgraded lines and equipment to improve the long-term reliability our customers need to sustain that growth.”

Construction is taking place on five projects in the New Mexico area. Work on the 90-mile 345-kV Hobbs-China Draw transmission line project in New Mexico began in April 2017. The project links the Hobbs Plant substation, located about 11 miles northwest of Hobbs, with the new China Draw substation located about 22 miles south of Carlsbad. The project, which is estimated to cost $163 million, will be complete by June 2018. Work on the Livingston Ridge-Sage Brush-Cardinal 115-kV transmission line is finishing up this month. The project, which includes nearly 50 miles of new transmission line and two substations in Lea and Eddy counties, will provide additional transmission capacity and increase reliability.

In Roswell, 24 miles of transmission line upgrades are expected to be complete by February. The Roswell Loop project is an effort to replace older 69-kV lines with new 115-kV lines to boost reliability. The project includes upgrades to four substations.

The TUCO-Yoakum-Hobbs transmission line is being built in three segments. Work in Texas on the 27-mile section between the Yoakum substation and the Texas/New Mexico border began in November.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas has approved the 105-mile segment between Yoakum and TUCO substations. Approval on the final 36-mile segment in New Mexico between the state line and the Hobbs substation is expected by the end of the year. | PGI

 

 


Maine Lawmakers Focus on Major Power Failures Caused by Recent Storm

The Maine Legislature plans to consider aggressive tree cutting, underground power lines and other measures in response to a recent storm that left some homes and businesses in the dark for up to 10 days.

The Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology will listen to ideas for reducing the number and duration of power outages when lawmakers reconvene in the new year, said Democratic Rep. Seth Berry, co-chairman of the panel.

The proposals are expected to run the gamut, including expanded tree trimming, burying more power lines, using rubberized power lines and even encouraging microgrids for neighborhoods or institutions, he said.

At the peak, more than half of Maine’s residents were in the dark after a powerful storm blew down thousands of trees and toppled power lines. It took more than a week for utility crews to restore power to nearly 500,000 homes and businesses.

A spokesman for the state’s largest utility, Central Maine Power (CMP), said it took crews less than half the time to restore power than during the 1998 ice storm when there were fewer outages.

“We think that’s a solid reflection on the job we did. It was done quickly, efficiently and, most importantly, safely,” spokesman John Carroll said.

The Public Utilities Commission launched hearings after the 1998 ice storm. The regulatory panel plans to analyze utility filings after the latest storm before determining how best to proceed, said Harry Lamphear, the Commission’s administrative director.

Central Maine Power stepped up tree cutting after the ice storm and again in 2008 after the so-called Patriot’s Day Storm, and crews now trim trees on a five-year cycle, Carroll said. That means crews trim trees along 5,000 miles of CMP’s power lines each year, he said.

CMP can change the requirements for trimming and bury more lines, but ratepayers may balk at aggressive trimming and added costs, Carroll said.

“We support things that can make the system more resistant to weather. I’m just trying to point out that there are practical limitations,” he said.| PGI

 

MidAmerican Energy Files Five-Year Energy Efficiency Plan With Iowa Regulators

MidAmerican Energy Co. filed an application with the Iowa Utilities Board for approval of its proposed 2019-2023 Energy Efficiency Plan. The Des Moines, Iowa-based MidAmerican is proposing a plan that it says will save the average residential customer $67 annually—enough to install LED lightbulbs or a programmable thermostat. Commercial customers could realize an average savings of $152 per year and an average industrial customer could see savings of $6,500 per year.

In 2016, 47 percent of the energy MidAmerican Energy delivered to its Iowa customers came from renewable resources, nearly halfway to reaching its 100 percent Renewable Energy Vision. By 2021, renewable energy is expected to equal 95 percent of its Iowa customers’ annual energy usage, according to the company release.

The increase of renewable energy sources in MidAmerican Energy’s generation portfolio warrants a revised program that keeps rates low and returns money to customers, a company leader said.

“Since the 1990s, MidAmerican Energy and its customers have come a long way in achieving the ultimate goal of energy efficiency requirements—to provide energy in an environmentally friendly and carbon-free manner,” said Bill Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy, in a statement. “Currently, all customers help fund an energy efficiency pot of money that other customers can use.

“We believe it is time to return the spending decisions to our customers, empowering them to use their dollars in the way that works best for their family, instead of paying for other customers’ energy efficiency,” Fehrman added.

Under the proposed plan, a comprehensive set of 17 programs will be offered that are designed to help customers manage energy use, reduce costs, protect the environment and increase business competitiveness. | PGI

Bill Fehrman, president and CEO, MidAmerican Energy

 

Utilities Still Spending Big on New Tech Despite Political Uncertainties, Says Capgemini

Despite the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and uncertainty around other government initiatives, utilities and consumers are driving a transformation of the energy system, according to Capgemini’s World Energy Markets Observatory report.

In addition, the report projects that coal may become the leading source of power generation by 2019, potentially retaining that position through 2032, if the Clean Power Plan is not approved or is stripped down. These impacts may be offset by the natural course of political compromise that occurs in the U.S. between the two dominant political parties and the federal and state governments.

Despite this political uncertainty, utilities have increased investments in green and renewable energy. Within the power and utilities sector, efficiency program spending has almost tripled since 2007, from $2.2 billion to $6.3 billion in 2015. In addition, 2016 was a record year with renewable energy capacity additions of over 22 GW.

With the growth in renewable energy, enhancing infrastructure and grid modernization will be instrumental in the future of the North American electricity infrastructure and adequacy of supply. Advanced grid analytics platforms, for example, can use big data from SCADA, advanced metering infrastructure, weather forecasting and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to provide actionable information in support of daily operations and intelligent planning of future investments. This is just one promising technology that is essential for the success of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization initiative, according to the report.

As investment and adoption of green and renewable energy increases, a transformation of how utilities deliver energy, and consumers receive it, has begun. As renewable energy sources grow, so will the risk of congestion-driven outages. In the longer term, achieving grid stability will likely require big data, analytics and automation vs. human-based processes and procedures to allow the electric grid to remain stable.

“The North American utilities market is exposed to several significant, global variables in play—those not only impact how we consume and source energy in the near-term, they ultimately factor into our ability to achieve success during this time of transition,” said Bart Thielbar, Capgemini’s vice president of North America utilities practice lead. “The U.S. energy market has shown growth in renewable energy projects and an increase in new technology investments, which shows a focus on building a successful future, despite uncertainties in today’s climate.”| PGI

 

Zuckerberg Touts Wind Power After Visit to NextEra Farm in Oklahoma

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited an Oklahoma wind farm last month and stirred some debate on his comments comparing renewables favorably against oil and gas in the historic drilling state.

In a Facebook post, of course, Zuckerberg revealed personal impressions and details of his trip to see the NextEra Energy wind farm in Duncan in southwestern Oklahoma. He recounted conversations with wind industry workers who told him their sector offered a more sustainable lifestyle than dealing with the volatility of oil and gas prices. The industry is still recovering from a two-year bust cycle.

“Oil prices are volatile, and any oil well eventually taps out, so you have to move from place to place, often working shifts a few weeks away from home at a time,” Zuckerberg posted. “By contrast wind is renewable and doesn’t run out, so the jobs are more consistent and sustainable.”

One of Zuckerberg’s followers on Facebook was not impressed.

“Excuse me Mark,” commented someone who identified himself as Tony Pierce and said he was a 12-year veteran of the oil and gas industry. “Yes it is hard. No it’s not for the faint of heart. However, without the jobs we have done through the years, nothing that you have built would have been possible. A little respect would go a long way.”

The Facebook founder actually replied to the comment by saying he had great respect for the industry and just wanted to recount what he heard from people he met on the travels.

In his original post, Zuckerberg noted the technological pace of renewable energy production and its impact on the workforce.

“A lot of people focus on whether technology creates or destroys jobs,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’ve seen both this year—improving tech has created more jobs in some industries and in others it has eliminated jobs. But perhaps the most common dynamic I’ve seen is that the number of jobs stays about the same, but in order to operate the increasingly advanced technology, people need more training and therefore get more pay.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported earlier this year that in 2016 wind energy overtook coal in Oklahoma’s electricity generation mix. Wind rose to about 25 percent statewide, according to the EIA, compared to slightly less than 25 percent for coal-fired generation. | PGI

 

 


Scandinavian Power Decision Leaves Finland at Disadvantage

Finland has come out the wrong side of a disagreement between it and its Scandinavian neighbours on how to plan for a new system to balance electricity supply and demand in the region.

Negotiations have broken down between Norway, Sweden and the Finns over power trading arrangements designed to counter imbalance between supply and demand on their collective power grids.

The grids must currently agree unanimously how to smooth out the flows, however earlier this year, grid operators proposed taking decisions by majority vote, a change they say will ensure the future reliability of supply as demand grows.

Finland opposed the idea, saying it is illegal under EU rules. Five months of negotiations failed to find a solution.

Stripped of a veto, Finland is concerned it may have no say on who produces the balancing power, possibly favoring Scandinavian power plants, as Finnish ones tend to be costlier.

If the Scandinavian plan wins EU approval, it could make it more difficult for Finland to deal with short-term fluctuations in demand.

The Swedish grid operator announced its decision in late November to press ahead without Finland.

“In the new Scandinavian balancing model… Svenska Kraftnat and (Norwegian grid operator) Statnett will maintain the current coordinating role for operation of the power system,” Svenska Kraftnat said in a statement.

“We regret that Fingrid has decided not to join the new cooperation… the Scandinavian TSOs (transmission system operators) aim for collaboration, not isolation,” it added.

Fingrid will submit its own proposal that suggests keeping the current Nordic system unchanged for some time, its senior vice president Asta Sihvonen-Punkka told Reuters.

Finland imports up to one-fifth of its electricity consumption at times of peak winter demand, and being alone could create uncertainty for its security of power supply, crucial for its energy-hungry industrial sector.

Helsinki also faces the prospect of compensating for end of life scenarios for many of its combined heat and power plants, which had been producing one third of its electricity, shielding the country from blackouts during cold winters.

The decision now goes before the European Union’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), which would act as mediator.

If that fails, it could ask for the European Commission’s help to break the deadlock. The deadline for making a common single proposal between the Nordic grid operators is Jan. 14, 2018.

 

Japanese Utilities, Oracle Teaming on Residential Energy Study

Oracle Utilities is working with the Japanese Ministry of Environment and five utilities in the country as part of the ministry’s effort to promote information-based C02-reducing behavioral changes in the residential sector.

To help Japan meet its climate change counter-measure plan and Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by fiscal year 2030 (compared to fiscal year 2013 levels), Oracle Utilities Opower Energy Efficiency Cloud Service will be used to provide personalized energy efficiency guidance to 300,000 households across five utility territories throughout Japan.

With nearly 70 percent of the average Japanese household’s carbon footprint stemming from energy use, Japan’s Ministry of Environment commissioned a nationwide study to measure the potential of residential behavioral energy efficiency programs as a means of reaching Japan’s fiscal year 2030 CO2 emissions’ reduction goals—of which a 40 percent reduction is required in residential-sector emissions alone.

As part of this effort, Oracle Utilities will work with five Japanese utilities, including Hokkaido Gas Ltd., Tohoku Electric Power Co. Inc., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. Inc., Kansai Electric Power Co. Inc. and Okinawa Electric Power Co. Inc., to deliver personalized energy consumption information to residents across each utility territory using the Opower Energy Efficiency Cloud Service platform.

 

 


Chile National Grid Coordinator Calls for Bids
to Support Nationwide Transmission Expansion

Chile’s power grid administrator Coordinador Elàƒ©ctrico Nacional (CEN) has called for bids to build and operate 67 expansion projects along the nation’s transmission network.

CEN estimated the expected investment of the total projects at around $760 million (U.S.). The tender opens bidding internationally. The work will expand the national’s Zonal Transmission System, formerly known as Subtransmission.

“Chile’s energy sector is experiencing a historic moment, and we are only a few weeks away from achieving the desired interconnection between the interconnected system of the large north (SING) and the central interconnected system (SIC),” CEN board president Germàƒ¡n Hernandez said in a statement.

Chile’s plan is to build a national electric grid by unifying the north and south regions beginning in 2018. The transmission system will stretch over 3,100 kilometers and have an installed capacity of 24,000 MW, according to reports.

Work on the 500-kV system is expected to be run through 2020. Segments of the project are open to both individual companies in and outside the nation.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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