BPA ‘confident’ it can meet grid demands without building I-5 Corridor project

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) on May 18 said that it will not build the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project, a proposed 80-mile, 500-kV transmission line that would have extended from Castle Rock, Wash., to Troutdale, Ore.

BPA said that the decision caps a comprehensive public process and reflects its commitment to taking a more flexible, scalable, as well as economically and operationally efficient approach to managing its transmission system.

The project, which was first announced in 2009, sought to address a reliability issue along a transmission corridor in southwest Washington and northwest Oregon that could lead to power outages, BPA said.

Following a final environmental impact statement that was released in February 2016, BPA Administrator Elliot Mainzer promised the region that BPA would conduct additional analyses, BPA said, adding that it began an extensive review of financial forecasts, planning assumptions, and commercial practices.

BPA noted that it combined those results with findings of regional utilities and independent industry experts to address the underlying issue – managing congestion along the I-5 corridor, while maintaining the potential for economic growth. BPA said that it determined through that process that it could meet its obligations to provide reliable and robust transmission service with a more innovative and flexible approach.

As TransmissionHub reported in April 2016, with a decision pending on whether BPA would build the project, BPA issued a request for offers (RFO) on non-wires grid management tools to see what options are available to relieve grid congestion in the Northwest.

A BPA spokesperson also told TransmissionHub at that time that the RFO seeks adjustments in generation capacity, demand-side management (DSM) resources or other technologies to provide transmission loading relief during the summer along the South of Allston (SOA) transmission corridor, which is generally along I-5 between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.

Responses, which could include incremental capacity, DSM resources and decremental capacity – or reduced generation – were due in May 2016, according to the RFO. The RFO sought terms only for the summer months of July through September, starting July 1, 2017, with a one-summer minimum term and a five-summer maximum term.

For the incremental and decremental capacity, BPA would pair increases in generation close to where load is served with reduced generation elsewhere to provide transmission relief on the SOA path, the BPA spokesperson explained.

BPA will consider offers between 25 MW and 250 MW, according to the RFO. BPA said in the RFO that it “will prioritize offers that provide maximum, least-cost counter flow” on the SOA path.

BPA said in an April 26, 2016, statement that the RFO is expected to lead to a five-year pilot program on non-wires solutions for transmission relief on the SOA path.

In BPA’s May 18 statement, Mainzer said: “Given the extensive work we’ve done in the past 15 months with regional partners and others, we are now confident that we can continue to meet the demands on the grid without building this 80-mile line in southwest Washington. We will always make safe and reliable transmission service a priority. We also recognize a growing need to be flexible and agile in our business practices to create the greatest value to electricity ratepayers in the Northwest.”

Mainzer noted that the scope, impact, and increasing budget for the project became the catalyst for pushing BPA to reconsider its existing analytical processes, its commercial business practices, and its implementation of federal reliability standards.

BPA noted that in reviewing its project assumptions with regional utilities, it identified that it used a conservative approach to risk that went beyond industry standards. BPA said that by modernizing its approach to develop better real-time visibility of the transmission system, coupled with new tools to manage congestion during peak times, BPA may find additional transmission capacity that can be released for operational use or for sale.

BPA said that a technical conference will be convened within a month to discuss with its customers BPA’s new approach to managing congestion on its transmission grid.

In addition, in the coming weeks, BPA will begin implementing a two-year “non-wires” pilot project that will provide targeted transmission congestion relief in the greater Portland-Vancouver area during peak periods of electric use in the summer. BPA added that the pilot project should result in more than 100 MW of flow relief along the most congested portion of the transmission corridor for four-hour blocks.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.