October 28, 2020

SPP stakeholders approve transmission plans and improvements to power grid operations

Southwest Power Pool’s (SPP) board and stakeholders approved plans for new transmission and made strategic decisions related to  real-time grid operations, administration of its wholesale energy market and corporate affairs during October quarterly meetings.

The board approved the 2020 Integrated Transmission Plan, the result of 27 months of collaboration among SPP and its stakeholders. The plan includes 54 projects including 92 miles of 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission. These upgrades will solve 163 issues on the power grid. SPP expects the upgrades to reduce wholesale energy congestion costs, providing estimated future net savings of up to 30 cents on the average monthly residential bill. The projects’ benefits outweigh the costs across a wide range of variables including natural gas prices, generation retirements, changes in demand and growth in solar, wind and battery storage.

“Each year we are more effective in aligning our transmission plans with the huge changes we’ve seen in our region’s generation mix,” said Antoine Lucas, SPP vice president of engineering. “These grid upgrades will bring tremendous value and leverage our stakeholders’ existing investments in transmission and renewable energy.”

The board approved an industry expert panel (IEP) recommendation for Transource Missouri, LLC to build the “Sooner-Wekiwa” project. This 75-mile, 345-kV line in Oklahoma has a $66 million revenue requirement with an expected completion date of 2026. The IEP evaluated this project through its competitive transmission owner selection process, which is required under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Order No. 1000 for certain transmission projects. The board approved Xcel Energy Southwest Transmission Company, Inc. as the alternate builder.

Bruce Rew, senior vice president of operations, gave an update on SPP’s grid operations. He reported demand for electricity is slightly above normal and has recovered from the drop SPP’s region experienced after the pandemic began.

“We continue to see a big increase in wind energy, with 3.6 gigawatts of new installed wind this quarter alone,” he reported. “We expect wind will be our number one fuel source for 2020.”

Development of SPP’s Western Energy Imbalance Service market is going smoothly, and we remain on track to launch the market in February 2021. We expect FERC to issue an order on the market tariff around Dec. 1.

The Markets and Operations Policy Committee approved six recommendations from the Electric Storage Resources white paper to help SPP successfully integrate a growing amount of storage resources into the region.

SPP continues work to implement the recommendations of the landmark 2019 Holistic Integrated Tariff Team (HITT) report. The board approved four HITT initiatives:

  • White papers on economic outage coordination and topology optimization.
  • Recommendations from the Energy Resource Interconnection Service/Network Resource Interconnection Service Task Force.
  • Implementing a new cost-sharing methodology for qualifying 100-300 kV transmission projects that primarily move power out of local transmission pricing zones. The Regional State Committee (RSC) of state regulators approved this methodology.
  • A study outlining how SPP can more quickly facilitate adding new load on the grid.

SPP elected Elizabeth Moore to its board of directors, and the RSC elected new officers to serve in 2021. Commissioner Kristie Fiegen of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will serve as RSC president, Commissioner Randel Christmann of the North Dakota Public Service Commission will serve as vice president and Commissioner DeAnn T. Walker of the Public Utility Commission of Texas will serve as secretary and treasurer.

The board approved SPP’s 2021 operating and capital budgets, including a $4 million reduction in expenses. Barbara Sugg, SPP president and chief executive officer, noted, “The budget reflects the impacts and uncertainty of the pandemic as well as our ongoing commitment to deliver high-quality services at the lowest possible cost.” She added that SPP office staff continues to work remotely while COVID-19 cases remain on an upward trajectory in Arkansas.

Meeting materials from the October meetings are on SPP.org:

Regional State Committee materials
Markets and Operations Policy Committee materials
Board of Directors and Members Committee materials

Derek Wingfield, 501-614-3394, dwingfield@spp.org