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Grid operator approves major Midwest transmission plan

By Dan Haugen

The Midwest electricity grid is getting a big upgrade.

The Midwest’s regional electricity grid operator approved a long-term plan Thursday that calls for $6.5 billion in new transmission projects aimed at helping states meet their renewable energy mandates and spreading the cost of renewable transmission across the region.

The plan is also expected to deliver economic benefits to customers by making the grid more reliable and efficient. The total amount of planned investment, which includes 215 projects, far exceeds previous years’ long-term plans, which have typically been around $1.5 billion.

“The Midwest has not seen this significant of a transmission expansion for decades,” Beth Soholt, executive director of the St. Paul-based advocacy group Wind on the Wires, said in a statement.

The board of directors of MISO (formerly the Midwest Independent Systems Operator), the nonprofit that manages the region’s high-voltage power lines, unanimously approved the plan.

Wind is expected to be a winner, but so are electricity customers. MISO said the benefits to ratepayers are projected to outweigh costs by more than a two-to-one margin. A retail customer that paid $11 in additional fees can expect to see $23 in benefits.

“Inflation in energy prices is something we anticipate, so anything we can do as a region to keep those costs in check is important,” Clair Moeller, MISO’s vice president of transmission asset management, said during a phone call with reporters Thursday morning.

The plan, known as the MISO Transmission Expansion Plan 2011, or MTEP11, includes 16 so-called “multi-value projects” — transmission lines that have broad, regional benefits that go beyond meeting local energy and reliability needs.

MISO said in its release that these multi-value projects will create up to 39,800 construction and 74,000 total annual jobs. They’re also expected to reduce costs by making sure less low-cost electricity is wasted through transmission losses, it said.

“In addition, all of MTEP11 projects are essential to helping the region manage the severe drop in planning reserve margins that is likely to occur in the next several years if pending environmental regulations proceed as planned,” Bear said.

Editor’s note: Policy associates for Fresh Energy, which publishes Midwest Energy News, have advocated for the MISO plan but were not involved in the reporting of this story.

3 thoughts on “Grid operator approves major Midwest transmission plan

  1. It’s been years since any aggressive transmission build-out has occurred (decades?!?), but never has it been done in such a comprehensive manor. Although rate-payers may balk at the price tag & the usual NIMBY arguments will surely arise; these projects may very well benefit us all in ways we cannot now imagine. Thanks for the posting!

  2. Not smart and not comprehensive. We’re wasting billions of dollars on unreliable, inexpensive and environmentally devastating wind energy projects that will not deliver the cost/benefit ratio touted in this article. Anyone serious about renewable energy for environmental reasons will talk about Thorium reactors, solar, and other systems that do not upset the ecological balance by killing thousands of birds and bats. This is nothing but elitist nonsense being gobbled up by people who are too afraid to call things what they really are: a modern day Emperor’s New Clothes scenario. Ridiculous. This garbage imperils the planet and needs to stop.

  3. Wind energy in Ohio is , right now,below 7 cents per KWH. You can’t do that with Thorium reactors , and Thorium reactors make the same radioactive poisons that present day Uranium reactors make. Nature has shown us the limits of what engineering can do, and those limits rule out nuclear power, including Thorium. Thorium is deadly too, and makes poisons a plenty. Wind power is coming online because , next to efficiency, wind is the cheapest power source that can be constructed today. G.E. the energy giant, has proclaimed that solar will be cheaper than even dirty old coal plants , within 3 to 5 years due to innovations. Engineers tell me that the advances in solar have already been achieved,and that they are moving them to production lines. Grid efficiency, as represented by this project, like appliance efficiency standards, are best thing that could happen to Ohioans who pay an electric bill. Efficiency and wind today, and solar soon, because they are the cheapest, because they save us money, because they don’t poison our kids with mercury. Want to save birds from dying, a billion are killed per year by windows, yes the windows in buildings and residential houses. Want to save another half billion birds per year, control feral cats, yes , wild house cats kill a half billion birds per year. Wind turbines of today with monopole towers, have no horizontal perches for birds to use, so bird kills are irrelevant, and not an issue. The next two biggest bird killers are pesticides and cars. Wind turbines are way down the list. The # 1 killer of birds, is loss of habitat. Wind and sun also have no fuel charge, don’t spew radiation into peoples lungs, don’t emit mercury, don’t cause asthma like coal. Lets look at the truth, wind is, next to efficiency efforts (grid upgrade, etc)the cheapest way to make a new power station. Before ANY nuclear plant can be built anywhere, solar power will be cheaper than the power the nuke plant would generate. G.E. is taking that to the bank, so should we. Oh, and G.E. is developing a 15 MW wind turbine for offshore. America finally has an energy policy , and it’s being well dictated by the easy to see relative cost advantages of efficiency, like this grid upgrade, appliance standards, and wind power.