October 18, 2023

MN Commerce Department and regional grid operators receive $464 million from U.S. Department of Energy for innovative electric grid project

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved $464 million to fund a joint proposal by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Great Plains Institute and two regional electricity transmission operators, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and Southwest Power Pool (SPP) for DOE’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) program. 

The grant award will be used to help build five high-voltage transmission lines that will span seven states – Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The federal grant is expected to spur over $1 billion in additional private sector investments, to reduce the costs to ratepayers across the region, and to provide communities with a range of benefits.

“The DOE has provided us a historic opportunity to leverage federal clean energy funds to deliver reliable, affordable and safe energy that is increasingly generated by carbon-free and renewable energy resources,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold. “The joint project delivers critical funds to expand our electric grid with new transmission lines and to reduce the burden of costs to utility ratepayers for adding those needed transmission lines. This collaboration could become a model for building multistate energy infrastructure into the future.”

“It’s tremendously exciting to think about what these funds will mean for the SPP and MISO regions, and for our industry,” said SPP vice president of engineering David Kelley. “As our organizations worked together with our partners and with the DOE, it’s been our goal not only to create value for people living in our service territories, but also to model effective collaboration that spans the borders of states, utilities and grid operators. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to do much more of the same in the future.”

“As the power system continues to undergo significant transformation, new and innovative solutions are required,” said Aubrey Johnson, MISO’s Vice President of System Planning and Competitive Transmission. “MISO appreciates DOE’s financial support and recognition as a testament to the collaboration from all partners involved to develop transmission lines that will allow more generation to connect to the grid, improve reliability and deliver direct economic benefit to the seven-state region.” 

This first-of-its-kind effort will invest in interregional transmission projects, creating an innovative shared pool of funding for transmission line projects within two regional transmission organizations, which serve as “air traffic controllers” of the electric power grid:

  • MISO – the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (misoenergy.org), which manages the flow of electricity across 15 states, including Minnesota, and the Canadian province of Manitoba;   
  • SPP – the Southwest Power Pool (spp.org), which manages electricity energy across 14 central and western states.

These projects were part of the MISO-SPP Joint Targeted Interconnection Queue (JTIQ) Study, which identified transmission lines that would deliver a range of benefits for communities who get electricity along the routes, including:

  • Reduced cost of electricity production and lower energy costs for consumers
  • Decreased time required to conduct interconnection studies.
  • Improved grid resilience and reliability in delivering electricity to communities. 
  • Increased ability to transfer energy generation between MISO and SPP, which is especially important during extreme weather conditions.
  • Increased inter-regional capacity with a more robust transmission network, enabling more carbon-free resources to interconnect to the system, and to do so more quickly, reducing carbon emissions.

A key component of the joint proposal is to ensure disadvantaged communities in the region would benefit from the energy infrastructure investments. The Justice40 Initiative, a stated federal government goal that at least 40% of the project benefits accrue to disadvantaged communities, is a component of GRIP funding. Justice40, and its foundation of equity in energy resources, is supported by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Great Plains Institute will bring its knowledge of the transmission planning process and expertise in engaging stakeholders to help reach communities to achieve these objectives.

For next steps, the DOE will begin negotiations with Commerce, MISO, SPP and others to finalize a funding agreement and the proposed projects. The process still requires approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, MISO and SPP Board of Directors, and state regulatory bodies.

To learn more, visit the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy website, websites for MISO and SPP, and the DOE’s Grid Deployment Office website.

Meghan Sever, (501) 482-2393, msever@spp.org