PGE, BPA pursuing changes to Cascade Crossing transmission project

Portland General Electric (NYSE: POR) and the Bonneville Power Administration announced Jan. 14 that they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to pursue a modification to PGE’s proposed Cascade Crossing transmission project that could benefit the region’s grid while simultaneously reducing the overall environmental impacts of the project.

As initially proposed, the project would have run 215 miles from Boardman, Ore. to Salem, Ore. Under the modification outlined in the MOU, the transmission project will still begin at Boardman and follow the original path but will terminate at a new Pine Grove substation that PGE would build about 18 miles southwest of Maupin, Ore.

That change will shorten the project by over 100 miles, and will avoid most impacts to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reservation, the Mt. Hood and Willamette national forests and private forest and agricultural land in Marion and Linn counties.

To make up for the transmission capacity lost by shortening the project, PGE will invest in grid enhancements to accommodate the additional energy the project brings into the area.

“We’re talking about enhancements that would allow us to make the most efficient use of what BPA already has in place and enhance that with the addition of this new line,” a PGE spokesperson told TransmissionHub Jan. 14. “That would achieve the goals of our original project while benefiting BPA and its customers as well as PGE and our customers.”

The spokesperson noted that specific enhancements are subject to discussion and negotiation under the terms of the MOU. However, PGE could exchange assets with BPA to increase transmission capacity, or take other steps to reduce congestion and enhance reliability of the grid. In exchange, PGE could receive up to 2,600 MW of transmission capacity ownership rights to deliver electricity to customers in Portland and the Willamette Valley, the two organizations said in a statement announcing the MOU.

BPA will conduct a formal stakeholder review process prior to entering into any further agreement. Both entities will cooperate in completing any necessary environmental reviews.

PGE began developing the Cascade Crossing project in response to an order issued by the Oregon Public Utility Commission in 2004 directing PGE to work with BPA and others to develop transmission capacity over the Cascade Mountain Range. The project was included in PGE’s most recent integrated resource plan, and is needed to meet its customers’ growing energy needs, enhance the region’s grid and support development of wind generation projects east of the Cascades.

The project currently is undergoing review by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council and federal agencies involved in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

PGE intends to file amendments to the public permitting processes for the Cascade Crossing project. The utility will focus on permitting the project from Boardman to the Pine Grove substation and will suspend permitting of the previously proposed section west of the Maupin area.

The Cascade Crossing project is one of seven projects targeted by the Obama administration’s Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission, which intends to improve the quality and timeliness of electric transmission infrastructure permitting, review and consultation by the federal government.