Minnesota Power touts cross-border transmission project

The Great Northern Transmission Line provides a unique opportunity for Minnesota Power to transform its energy supply portfolio in a manner that will assure the continued adequacy, reliability, efficiency and cost effectiveness of its power supply, while also lowering emissions and optimizing the value of Minnesota Power’s renewable energy resources.

“The Project does so by providing access to needed hydropower resources – resources already approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (‘MPUC’ or ‘Commission’),” said the utility in a Dec. 19 initial brief filed at the commission in the power line case. “Moreover, the Project will deliver these resources with Minnesota Power and its ratepayers paying only a portion of the Project cost. As such, Minnesota Power and its ratepayers stand to benefit from the Project for decades to come.”

The project includes the construction of a new 500-kV transmission line in Minnesota from the United States/Canadian border to the Minnesota Power Blackberry Substation in the Grand Rapids, Minnesota, area. At the time of the origianl application, Minnesota Power stated that the project would provide at least 750 MW of transfer capability. However, subsequent analysis indicates that the project will provide approximately 883 MW of transfer capability.

“Through the implementation of its EnergyForward resource strategy, Minnesota Power is transforming it energy supply portfolio, from a coal-dominant power supply to a more diverse, flexible, efficient and lower emission power supply that protects affordability and preserves reliable electric service for the Company’s customers,” the utility noted. “As recently as 2005, Minnesota Power’s supply portfolio consisted of approximately 95 percent coal fired generation. However, as discussed in Minnesota Power’s recent Integrated Resource Plan (‘IRP’) and other dockets before the Commission, the Company has made substantial progress in rebalancing its supply portfolio to one consisting of about 25 percent renewable energy by the end of 2014, including 600 MW of wind energy resources. Going forward, the Company’s EnergyForward resource strategy calls for Minnesota Power’s portfolio to move to a balanced supply of one-third renewable energy, one-third natural gas and one-third coal – all while ensuring that the Company meets three key goals: preserving reliability, improving environmental performance and protecting affordability.

“For the purposes of this docket, two sets of energy trading agreements have central importance: (1) the 250 MW Power Purchase Agreement (‘PPA’) and Energy Exchange Agreement (‘EEA’) between Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro (collectively, ‘250 MW Agreements’), signed in 2011 and approved by the Commission in 2012; and (2) the 133 MW Energy Sale Agreement (‘ESA’) and EEA (together the Renewable Optimization Agreements (‘ROAs’)) (together with the 250 MW Agreements, the ‘Manitoba Hydro Agreements’), currently before the Commission for approval. A third agreement between the two companies, the Facilities Construction Agreement (‘FCA’) recently approved by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (‘FERC’), also has importance to this Docket.”

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.