Indiana commission approves Pioneer transmission project

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission on April 17 approved the Pioneer transmission project, which its backers said would bring grid reliability and a means to get more renewable energy onto the grid.

In December 2011, Pioneer Transmission LLC filed its petition with the commission initiating this matter. Pioneer is a joint venture between American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) through AEP Transmission Holding Co. LLC and Duke Energy Transmission Holding Co. LLC. Pioneer will not provide retail services to customers within Indiana.

Pioneer’s transmission service is subject to regulatory oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Pioneer will provide interstate transmission services within the footprints of PJM Interconnection and the Midwest ISO.

Pioneer had requested commission approval, to the extent necessary, of Pioneer’s status as a transmission-only public utility; authority to maintain Pioneer’s books and records outside the state of Indiana; and for the commission’s consent to the Board of County Commissioners of all Indiana counties to grant Pioneer such licenses, permits or franchises as may be necessary for Pioneer to use county roads, highways or other property and public right-of-ways for the provision of services and facilities. Pioneer also requested approval to transfer functional control and operations of its transmission facilities to PJM and/or MISO.

Pioneer during this case submitted the direct testimony and exhibits of Robert Bradish, President of Pioneer. Bradish stated that Pioneer proposes to develop a 765 kV transmission corridor west of Indianapolis running between two existing 765 kV substations (called the Pioneer Project). He stated the entirety of the Pioneer Project will consist of about 240 miles of 765 kV transmission line running from the Rockport Substation in Rockport, Ind., located at the coal-fired Rockport power plant of AEP, to its substation in north-central Indiana. He noted that these transmission facilities will traverse the footprint of PJM and MISO and consist of three main segments.

Bradish told the commission that the total Pioneer Project will cost approximately $950m, which is expected to be allocated mutually across the MISO and PJM footprints. According to Bradish, the Reynolds to Greentown Multi-Value Project (MVP) Segment is expected to cost about $245m.

Bradish stated there were several factors that support construction of the Pioneer Project, said the commission’s April 17 approval order.

  • First, there is substantial generation in southern Indiana while the primary load centers are in the central and northern portions of the state. The studies by AEP and Duke Energy indicated the addition of a strong south to north transmission line would enable power to be more effectively and reliably delivered to the load centers.
  • Second, there has been a tremendous amount of development of alternative energy projects in the region including a great deal of wind generation. Bradish stated that there is approximately 1,100 MW of wind generation currently in service with another 7,710 MW at various stages of development within the PJM footprint. In MISO, there was a the time of his testimony 531 MW of wind generation in service with another 2,585 MW in development. He said wind generation raises two major areas of concerns that bear on the transmission infrastructure: good locations for wind projects often are remote from load centers; and the intermittent nature of wind creates operational and reliability challenges.
  • Third, Bradish stated that there are a large number of coal-fired power units scheduled to retire, which, when combined with the need to meet growing demand, indicates the Midwest region will need a lot of new generation. He stated that this new generation will be located remotely from the load centers and will have different operating characteristics than traditional fossil-fired generation, thereby causing the needed transmission grid to be more robust.

The Pioneer Project, as approved, is made up of three distinct segments:

  • Pioneer’s portion of a 765 kV line running from Duke Energy’s Greentown substation to NIPSCO’s Reynolds substation (the “Reynolds to Greentown MVP Segment”) jointly developed by Pioneer and Northern Indiana Public Service (NIPSCO);
  • a 765 kV line running from Reynolds to Indiana Michigan Power’s Sullivan substation, with the portion within the Reynolds substation being owned by NIPSCO; and
  • a 765 kV line running from Sullivan to Indiana Michigan Power’s Rockport plant.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.