Transmission Investment is Growing

by James P. Fama, Edison Electric Institute

Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI’s) updated report “Transmission Projects: At A Glance, March 2011″ projects U.S. electric companies will invest some $61 billion (nominal dollars) in transmission infrastructure improvements by 2021.

This spending estimate, derived from a sampling of transmission projects underway or planned, will be on top of the nearly $55 billion (2009 dollars) EEI members invested to improve the nation’s grid between 2001 and 2009.

The growing investment in the nation’s transmission infrastructure continues in response to needs including reliability and generator interconnection. The trend in increased transmission investment is also because of, in part, recent landmark developments in federal and state policies affecting transmission infrastructure such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005, state renewable portfolio standards, federal transmission pricing policy, and federal initiatives promoting transmission smart grid development under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This is the fifth year EEI has published its transmission report. In it, EEI reviews more than 100 representative transmission projects that EEI members have planned for the next 10 years and captures the efforts of members’ continuing focus on transmission investment. These projects include:

â–  Interstate transmission projects. Improvements that physically span two or more states. These projects account for some 8,300 miles of transmission representing a $41.1 billion (nominal dollars) investment. Sample projects include the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Project and Interstate Reliability Project in the East, the CapX2020 and Kansas Electric Transmission Authority projects in the Midwest and the Energy Gateway project in the West.

â–  Transmission projects that support the integration of renewable energy resources. These projects, whether transmission line or nontransmission line, support the integration of a renewable energy resource. Highlighted projects reflect the addition or upgrade of 11,400 miles of transmission with an accompanying transmission investment cost of some $39.5 billion (nominal dollars). Sample projects include the Northeast Energy Link and Northern Pass Transmission Line projects in the Northeast; Pioneer Transmission, Prairie Wind Transmission, Tallgrass Transmission, Kansas V-Plan and the Green Power Express in the Midwest; and the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project and Canada-Pacific Northwest-California Transmission Project in the West.

â–  Transmission projects required for maintaining system reliability. These projects’ initial drivers have been identified as predominantly needed to meet North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) reliability standards (e.g., NERC Transmission Planning TPL standards), local transmission owner reliability criteria or both. Highlighted projects reflect the addition or upgrade of 3,600 miles of transmission with an accompanying transmission investment cost of some $15.5 billion (nominal dollars) and include the Susquehanna-Roseland 500-kV Transmission Line Project, New England East-West Solution projects and M29 project in the East; Rockdale-West Middleton and Dubuque County-Cardinal in the Midwest; Plant Vogtle Network Improvement Project and Thomson 500/230 kV Project in the Southeast; and the San Joaquin Cross Valley Loop Project in the West.

â–  Smart grid-related projects. These use digital technology to improve reliability, security and efficiency (economic and energy) of the electric system. EEI member companies are continuing their efforts to modernize the transmission system through individual funding and the use of Smart Grid Investment Grants for certain projects selected by the Department of Energy. These smart grid projects augment existing EEI member grid modernization efforts.

The report does not contain all EEI member projects. Several in the report are in proposal stages and subject to additional review of their costs and benefits, as well as an assessment of alternative projects. But the projects represent new transmission investments in the electric industry, and the sampling captures project types under construction or planned.

Transmission projects have the potential to address an array of purposes. Some are needed to maintain high levels of reliability that customers expect, and others might deliver benefits such as congestion relief, reduced system losses, integration of resources and deployment of advanced monitoring systems to enhance situational awareness.

Projects might be designed for a particular primary purpose, but they often provide additional benefits.

The report includes a brief profile of each participating EEI member company, along with the representative projects provided.

Information for each project submitted includes a project map, brief description, estimated cost, current status, potential partners and intended benefits.

Free EEI report: transmission/pages/transmissionprojectsat.aspx


 James P. Fama is vice president of energy delivery at Edison Electric Institute,

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