Numerous planned transmission projects facing delays

A number of transmission projects in various stages of development that had been expected to progress during 2013 have been delayed or suspended for reasons ranging from changes in the projected need for the facility to allowing additional time for public comment to concerns over the environment.

Despite the delay or cancellation of these and other projects, the outlook for the transmission segment of the industry remain positive. According to TransmissionHub data, 120 transmission projects, comprising 5,426 line miles, are expected to come online in 2013.

CHANGED NEED

Cascade Crossing. Construction of the Cascade Crossing transmission project, which is being scaled back under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and Portland General Electric (NYSE:POR; PGE), will begin at least three years later than originally planned. PGE executives made the announcement during the company’s 4Q12 earnings call, confirming a prediction made during the company’s 3Q12 earnings call in November 2012. At that time, the company cited delays in the ongoing permitting process for the line. The project is being scaled back due to a reduction in the projected need for additional transmission capacity.

East Walton to Rockville. Georgia Transmission Corp. delayed indefinitely the development of its 500-kV East Walton to Rockville 500-kV line due to stagnant load growth in the area caused by the downturn in the economy.

Sun Valley to Morgan. Arizona Public Service (APS) extended from 2016 to 2018 the in-service date for its proposed 38-mile, 500-kV Sun Valley to Morgan transmission project west of Phoenix, Ariz. Projected growth in the area that would be served by the line has slowed down since the project was proposed, an APS spokesperson told TransmissionHub. APS is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (NYSE: PNW).

NV Energy dropped plans to build four transmission projects designed to move renewable energy for export to California and the Desert Southwest because of a lack of interest from renewable developers. Those included the RTI Dixie-Oreana project, a double-circuit 41-mile, 345-kV transmission line; the RTI Tracy-Viewland project, a 79-mile, 345-kV transmission line; the RTI Westside Tie, a 141-mile, 345-kV line; and the RTI Zone 4 to Harry Allen project, a 40-mile, 500-kV project.

Tallgrass Project. The 170-mile, 765-kV project proposed by Tallgrass Transmission, a joint venture of Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) and Electric Transmission America (ETA), the joint venture between American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) and MidAmerican Energy Holdings, was suspended when AEP and MidAmerican announced in December 2012 that ETA would not develop any new projects. OG&E elected not to move forward with the project on its own.

EIS DELAYS

I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project. BPA extended the comment period for the draft EIS on the I-5 corridor reinforcement project to March 25 to provide additional time for interested parties to submit comments. The extension adds 24 days to the original 108-day comment period that BPA opened Nov. 14, 2012. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires a comment period of at least 45 days following release of a draft EIS.

Southline project. The draft EIS for the Southline transmission project planned for southern New Mexico and Arizona has been delayed until at least October 2013. A BLM official says it has taken more time to compile the data and entertain alternatives than previously anticipated.

Zephyr. Duke-ATC (DATC), the joint venture of Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) and American Transmission Company that purchased the Zephyr project in 2011 from its original owner, TransCanada Energy, will announce its preferred route when it releases its draft EIS in late March. While TransCanada had announced a preferred route, DATC chose to do its own analysis before announcing its preference, resulting in a slight delay in the project. The company hopes to begin construction on the line some time in 2016, with an in-service date of 2020.

WILDLIFE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Gateway West. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) put what is being described as a “short hold” on the release of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Gateway West transmission project to discuss additional information that was developed through the final EIS process. The EIS delay is in addition to delays to accommodate concerns for birds and bird habitat, including the Greater Sage Grouse, which was listed as a candidate for the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2010, as well as birds of prey, as the project may affect the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in southwestern Idaho.

Boardman-to-Hemingway. The Boardman-to-Hemingway project is facing delays in part due to environmental considerations. In August 2012, developer Idaho Power said the project would not meet the original in-service target date of mid-2016, and that an in-service date prior to 2018 is unlikely.

Gateway South. Consisting of two segments, the Mona to Crystal segment of PacifiCorp‘s Gateway South project has been indefinitely postponed but the Aeolus to Mona segment remains a “planned” project and is going through the national environmental policy act (NEPA) process, and anticipates issuing the draft EIS later this year, according to the developer.

TransWest Express. The draft EIS for the TransWest Express was delayed until the spring of 2013 so cooperating agencies can identify additional route alternatives that will address potential impacts on sensitive wildlife areas, a BLM spokesperson confirmed to TransmissionHub. The draft EIS had previously been anticipated in the fall 2012.