Here’s a plan to spend $2.7 billion on the electric grid

A common metaphor for what MISO does is the “air traffic controller of the electric grid.” The comparison is apt, and covers a big portion of what MISO does – managing the transmission system to ensure that power is delivered to the homes and businesses that need it. But MISO doesn’t just manage the grid of today; we also plan the grid of tomorrow. We do this through a process called the MISO Transmission Expansion Plan, or MTEP.

To continue mixing metaphors, MTEP is similar to how the highway system is planned. Planners look at future growth and demand across the region, and begin mapping out the transmission needed to meet that growth. This year’s MTEP portfolio, MTEP15, is comprised of 345 different transmission projects that will result in around $2.7 billion in investment across the MISO region.

Developing MTEP is a huge undertaking. The whole process takes 18 months and countless meetings with MISO stakeholders. Central to developing the right transmission portfolio is looking at the current transmission system and then predicting the changes anticipated over future decades. MISO does this by developing its own list of recommended projects, but also through new projects submitted by stakeholders that are required to meet local needs. As a group, these projects are studied and prioritized.

By the end of the process, the MISO board of directors votes to approve the portfolio. Following approval, the companies will then take over getting regulatory approval and construction of projects.

So what’s in MTEP15?

Upgrading the transmission system involves a number of different types of projects. They can be everything from new transmission lines or upgrades to substations. Overall, MISO groups them in a few different categories. To make things easy to understand, we’ll continue our highway system metaphor.

  • Baseline Reliability Projects: These projects are designed to ensure MISO continues to meet reliability standards in the future. Just like adding an additional lane to a freeway will accommodate future drivers, baseline reliability projects help build a transmission system to meet the needs of the future grid. Baseline projects represent 90 projects in MTEP15 for a total cost of $1.2 billion.
  • Generator Interconnection Projects: Like a new subdivision getting a new onramp to a freeway, generation interconnection projects allow new generation to connect to the transmission system. This year’s MTEP has $73.6 million in generation interconnection projects.
  • Market Efficiency Projects: Market Efficiency Projects are designed to address congestion on the system, resulting in an economic benefit across the region. Think about your commute to work. If a new road was built or highway widened, cutting down on waiting in traffic can have a huge economic benefit for a region. It’s a similar process for the transmission system. Cutting down on congestion allows the power to get to where it is needed free of restrictions or barriers. There is one Market Efficiency Project in MTEP15 that will cost around $67 million.
  • Other Projects: This bucket of projects is worth around $1.38 billion in a range of 242 different projects. These run the gamut from projects to address local reliability needs or smaller projects under a certain voltage.

These projects are a huge investment in the region. These projects will help MISO and its members continue to operate a reliable electric system.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

One big change this MTEP cycle is steps MISO is taking to comply with a recent regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC Order 1000 is designed to encourage transmission planning between neighboring systems (like PJM and SPP for MISO) and Order 1000 encourages competition between companies to build and operate certain transmission projects.

MISO undertook several interregional planning studies with our neighbors this year. This process resulted in an increase in information shared, as well as developing lessons learned for future interregional projects.

MTEP15 also includes MISO’s first competitive transmission project – the Duff-Coleman 345kv market efficiency project in South Indiana. The competitive process allows qualified transmission developers the opportunity to submit proposals to construct, own and operate this project. MISO has worked with stakeholders for many months to develop a just and reasonable process to evaluate developers and select a winning bidder. The process to select a developer for the Duff-Coleman 345kv line will begin in January 2016.

The process of MTEP is all about looking to the future. What sort of generation is on the MISO system in 10 or 20 years? Where is the demand for power in the future as well? MTEP allows MISO and its stakeholders to look at those questions and design a transmission system to reliably serve our region.

Challenges across the industry make this more important than ever. Big changes are already happening across MISO as our generation mix changes due to environmental regulations and economic forces, like low natural gas prices. The Clean Power Plan will only accelerate this change. As the system evolves and stakeholders begin to comply with the Clean Power Plan, developing a robust and resilient transmission system will be critical.

MISO will tackle this problem through developing models to predict the impact of different scenarios. To learn more about this process, stay tuned to MISO Matters!

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