NARUC adopts resolution encouraging use of transmission technologies

Utilities and independent system operators (ISOs) should evaluate new transmission technologies to determine if they can cost-effectively provide greater capacity and enhanced efficiency for transmission operations, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) said in a resolution adopted by the NARUC board Feb. 17.

The resolution was approved by the electricity committee Feb. 16 at NARUC’s winter committee meetings in Washington, D.C., with no questions from commissioners, before it was sent to the NARUC board.

The resolution encourages ISOs and other grid planning authorities “to support and consider cost-effective advanced electric transmission infrastructure options that can increase grid capacity, reduce transmission line losses, improve energy transfers, make efficient use of rights-of-way (ROW), improve energy efficiency, and help to streamline siting and construction activities in their planning, evaluation and oversight” of transmission development.

The resolution also said that utilities and ISOs should consult with the U.S. Department of Energy and its laboratories to better understand advanced transmission technologies and “consider the ability of these technologies to reduce environmental and visual impacts to communities.”

In a presentation to the electricity committee on Feb. 15, Michael Howard, president and CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), mentioned the relatively new Breakthrough Overhead Line Design (BOLD) developed by American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) that is more efficient and compact than existing transmission designs, with the ability to carry more energy in a smaller ROW.

Howard did not address the resolution, but was simply informing state commissioners of some of the technology developments EPRI has helped foster in its work with utilities.

When it announced the BOLD system in 2015, AEP said the reduced ROW makes it ideal for transmission rebuild projects in urban areas or where ROW concerns crop up, and that it is being installed by AEP subsidiary Indiana Michigan Power on a project to improve reliability around Fort Wayne, Ind.

In other areas of the country, the addition of large wind power projects and the shift to more natural gas-fired generation is prompting more examination of high-voltage transmission facilities, Howard told the committee.

In the resolution, NARUC notes that state regulators can facilitate the consideration of new transmission technologies since a significant portion of the nation’s transmission lines are aging and in need of replacement.

Furthermore, crowded utility corridors often allow little room for expansion and some states have established policies that encourage use of advanced transmission line technologies, according to the resolution.

“New and advanced replacement transmission facilities can be designed to enable a wide variety of new generating resources and can address technical, environmental, and aesthetic issues that might impede or limit the development and operation of these resources,” NARUC said.