Entergy CEO: Transmission grid critical for system reliability, efficiency

Entergy (NYSE:ETR) is delivering on its promise of portfolio transformation as part of its ongoing “Environment 2020” commitment, Entergy Chairman and CEO Leo Denault said on Feb. 15, referencing the company’s 2011 voluntary pledge to maintain its carbon dioxide emissions at 20% below year 2000 levels by 2020.

The company is meeting that goal, in part, by replacing older and less efficient legacy units with a cleaner and more efficient portfolio, he said during the company’s 4Q16 earnings call, adding that the company has added renewables to its portfolio, along with a greater emphasis on energy efficiency programs, and has completed upgrades to its nuclear capacity.

“Our transmission system is critical to the delivery of this newer, cleaner generation, and in 2016, we completed projects like upgrading the 230-kV lines from the Ninemile generating facilities for Entergy Louisiana and Entergy New Orleans,” he said.

“Transmission is also needed to support economic development by serving new customers,” he said. “In 2016, we invested in projects, like substations, to serve new industrial customers, particularly in Arkansas and Louisiana, and we’re on schedule to deliver the Lake Charles Transmission Project, a $160m investment supporting industrial growth in the region, by June of 2018.”

According to the company’s website, the Lake Charles project is located in the Lake Charles area of southwest Louisiana, and involves building a new 500-kV switching station east of the Nelson generating station; building about 10 miles of new 500-kV line from the new switching station south to a new 500-kV bulk substation; installing a new 500-230-kV, 1200 MVA autotransformer at the bulk substation; and building about four miles of new 230-kV transmission line from the bulk substation to the existing Carlyss 230-kV substation. The project also includes building about 12 miles of new 230-kV transmission line between the Carlyss and Graywood substations, the website noted.

The transmission grid is critical for system reliability and efficiency, Denault said during the call, noting that Entergy Texas last year completed three major projects to comply with NERC reliability standards and reduce congestion in its service territory.

“We added three new 230-kV lines, as well as a new 230-kV substation, which will not only enhance reliability and efficiency, but also reduce costs to customers,” he said.

A company spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Feb. 15 that those lines are the Ponderosa to Grimes 230-kV Project, Orange County Project, and China to Amelia line.

According to the company’s website, the approximately $63m Ponderosa to Grimes project, which was completed last May, is located in the western area of Entergy Texas, and included the installation of a 345-230-kV autotransformer at Grimes; installation of a new 230-138-kV autotransformer at the Ponderosa switching station; and the construction of a new 230-kV line between Grimes and Ponderosa. The project also included the upgrade of a 138-kV transmission line between the Ponderosa and Conroe substations, according to the website.

The approximately $55m Orange County Project is located north of the Beaumont/Port Arthur area in Texas, and included construction of a new 230-kV switching substation referred to as Chisholm Road; construction of a new 230-kV line from Hartburg to Chisholm Road; and cutting-in of the existing McLewis to Helbig and Georgetown to Sabine 230-kV lines. The website further noted that the project, which was completed last July, also included the installation of a second 500-230-kV autotransformer at Harburg.

The approximately $36m China to Amelia project, which was placed in service last May, is located in east Texas, and involved the construction of a new 230-kV transmission line between Entergy Texas’ China and Amelia 230-kV substations, according to the website.

Denault said during the call that “there are four large transmission projects underway in Entergy Mississippi, which will increase the reliability of the electric systems in [the] Vicksburg, Natches, and Madison areas, and provide opportunities for those regions to grow and develop.”

According to the spokesperson, those projects are the Vicksburg Area Improvement Project, Southwest Mississippi Reliability Improvement Project, Madison/Hinds Improvement Project, and Franklin to McComb Reliability Improvement Project.

According to the company’s website, the approximately $38m Vicksburg Area project is in the design and construction phase, and is expected to be in service by summer. The project includes building the new 115-kV Beech Grove switching station and rebuilding about 28 miles on the existing East Vicksburg to Ray Braswell line. The website further noted that 115-kV station equipment at Southeast Vicksburg and Bovina will also be upgraded.

The approximately $132m Southwest Mississippi project is in the design and construction phase, and is expected to be in service by fall 2018. The project includes building a new, approximately 65-mile, 230-kV line from Baxter Wilson 115-kV to Natchez SES 115-kV to initially be operated at 115 kV. The website further noted that the project also includes rebuilding about 65 miles of the existing Baxter Wilson to Natchez SES 115-kV.

The approximately $61m Madison/Hinds project is in the design and construction phase, and is expected to be in service by spring 2018. The website further noted that the project includes building a new approximately 28-mile, 230-kV line from the existing Bozeman Road 230-kV substation – currently a radial station – to the new Tinnin 230-kV substation, which will tap the existing Clinton Industrial to Gerald Andrus 230-kV line in northern Hinds County.

The approximately $33m Franklin to McComb project is in the design phase, and is expected to be in service by winter. The project involves building a new, approximately 28-mile, 230-kV transmission line – initially operated at 115 kV – from Franklin to the McComb substation, the website added.

Denault said during the call that Entergy also continues to work with the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) on future transmission projects.
“We received final approval in early December from the MISO board for MTEP 2016,” he said. “MISO approved all 48 of our projects, which are remaining for final consideration, totaling roughly $480m of transmission investment to serve our customers over the next few years.”

The spokesperson said that Entergy does not need additional approvals for the projects. According to the “MTEP16 Appendix D1” – which lists the approved projects – those projects include Entergy Arkansas Inc.’s Project 4665, which proposes to upgrade both Mabelvale substation 500-115-kV autotransformers to 598 MVA. The projected in-service date for the project is Dec. 1, and its estimated cost is $17.42m. The Mabelvale substation serves as a major source to the load in Little Rock and the surrounding area, according to the document.

Denault said during the call that Entergy is looking at the future by modernizing the grid to incorporate technologies to improve efficiency and reliability.

“In 2016, we started to lay the foundation for our integrated energy network,” he said. “We’ve begun the process for our advanced meter infrastructure, the gateway technology that will allow us to be more responsive to emerging issues, reduce outage restoration times, and improve system reliability. This technology will also provide timely information to our customers so they can better understand and control their usage. We’ve now made filings with our regulators in four jurisdictions for approval to implement advanced metering, and we expect to file in Texas, our final jurisdiction, in 2017. We anticipate beginning meter deployment in 2019.”

Noting that investment in that technology, along with such other grid technologies as meter data management, are a key focus for Entergy in 2017 and for several years beyond, Denault said that the company has created a team to provide constant focus on evaluating and integrating new technologies into Entergy’s operating model, including distributed generation.

“In 2016, we completed and initiated a number of projects to explore the use of some of these evolving technologies,” he said. “Our success with all of the utility initiatives … has been facilitated by the work we’ve done with our regulators to implement progressive regulatory mechanisms.”

Among other things, he said that Entergy now has three jurisdictions utilizing formula rate plans, with Entergy Mississippi, for instance, utilizing forward-looking features.

“We will continue to work with our regulators and others to improve existing constructs to ensure that we have the financial flexibility to execute on capital investments in response to our customers’ needs,” he said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3063 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.