July 31, 2018

SPP board directs construction of high-voltage transmission projects in 6 states, discusses growth in the west, hears stakeholder reports

LITTLE ROCK, AR – More than a hundred of Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) members and stakeholders gathered in Omaha on July 31 for the regional transmission organization’s (RTO) quarterly board of directors and members committee meeting. Among other actions, the board approved the 2018 Integrated Transmission Plan Near-Term (ITPNT) Assessment, requiring SPP members to construct 13 new transmission projects in six states over the next five years, at an estimated total investment of $47 million. These upgrades are expected to resolve 101 anticipated reliability needs on the electric grid, resulting primarily from increased electric consumption expected in certain areas of the region and from announced generation retirements in eastern Kansas and western Missouri.  

Completion of these upgrades will contribute to voltage stability, reduce grid congestion and ensure the SPP region remains compliant with mandatory federal standards. SPP also found that six previously approved projects expected to cost $85 million are no longer needed. The net effect of this board action is expected to have no impact to the monthly bills of the average residential customer in SPP’s footprint (see page 37-39 of ITPNT report).

“As a result of previous planning efforts performed over the past 14 years, SPP has already directed nearly $10 billion in new transmission investment. Those previous decisions allowed us to focus this assessment on smaller projects that optimize the big investments our members have made,” SPP Vice President of Engineering Lanny Nickell said. “Maintaining a reliable electric transmission network is a continuous process, and we continue to evaluate the best, most cost-effective ways to ensure we can keep the lights on today and in the future.”

SPP Transmission Planning Director Antoine Lucas said, “With input from its members and other stakeholders, SPP provides an independent and holistic view of the regional grid and its needs. The 2018 ITPNT is the latest example of our collaborative process to ensure adequate transmission infrastructure throughout the SPP region.”

At a special Meeting of Members preceding the board’s regular agenda, SPP’s membership approved nominations of three new members committee members: Bleau LaFave of NorthWestern Energy, Holly Carias of NextEra Energy Resources and Chris Hendrix of Walmart. Walmart is the first large retail customer to join the SPP RTO.

In his president’s report, SPP President and CEO Nick Brown stated that discussions with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) have yielded agreement on specific operating procedures, clarifying disputes that arose during a severe cold-snap in January 2018 that threatened reliability on both systems. Brown praised the outcome of numerous meetings on the matter and said he looks forward to continued reliable and coordinated operation between SPP and MISO.

Brown also reported on the June 5 letter he sent to interim CEO of the Western Electric Coordinating Council Steve Goodwill indicating receipt of 28 letters of intent from western entities interested in receiving reliability-coordination services from SPP on a contract basis. In a June 5 press release, Brown said, “SPP has served as a Reliability Coordinator in the east for more than two decades and has coordinated electric reliability one way or another since we formed in 1941. We’ve shown consistently throughout our history an ability to coordinate people, systems and complex processes to keep the lights on. We’re thrilled at the possibility of now doing so for new stakeholders in the west.”

The board also received its final report from the SPP Regional Entity (RE) Trustees. SPP announced on July 25, 2017, that it would dissolve the SPP RE to focus on its RTO functions. Work has proceeded since then to wind down the SPP RE’s operations and transfer duties and information to the Midwest Reliability Organization, SERC Reliability Corporation and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). The SPP RE Trustees Dave Christiano, Mark Maher and Steve Whitley received accolades and standing ovations for their service, and chairman of the SPP board of directors Larry Altenbaumer said, “We will look back on the RE as a proud chapter of SPP’s history. The RE has provided an extraordinarily high level of service to its members and set a high bar in terms of the quality of work they do that I hope the successor RE’s are able to achieve.”

The board also heard reports from the organization’s Regional State Committee, finance and oversight committees, and strategic planning committee (SPC), among others. Golden Spread Electric Cooperative’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory and Market Strategy Mike Wise, who is the chairman of the SPC, noted in his report that the committee recently completed an assessment of SPP’s value proposition: a statement of the organization’s distinguishing characteristics that set it apart from its counterparts. “These are principles within SPP that the committee thought were still well-founded. … The value proposition is alive and well and is a differentiator of who we are.”  


About SPP: Southwest Power Pool, Inc. manages the electric grid and wholesale energy market for the central United States. As a regional transmission organization, the nonprofit corporation is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure and competitive wholesale electricity prices. Southwest Power Pool and its diverse group of member companies coordinate the flow of electricity across 66,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines spanning 14 states. The company’s headquarters are in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn more at www.spp.org.

Emily Pennel, 501-680-7119, epennel@spp.org