With 2018 approaching, TransmissionHub offers 2017 news roundup

As 2018 approaches, TransmissionHub presents a roundup of energy news that occurred in 2017. From the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issuing Presidential Permits for such projects as the ITC Lake Erie Connector transmission line, to hurricanes causing massive destruction in places like Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, the following are some examples of the news covered this year.

Presidential Permits

ITC Lake Erie Connector LLC on Jan. 13 said that it has received approval of a Presidential Permit from DOE for the 1,000-MW, bi-directional, high-voltage direct current (HVDC) underwater ITC Lake Erie Connector transmission line.

The approximately 73-mile, +/- 320-kV line that would interconnect with converter stations located in Erie, Pa., and Nanticoke, Ontario, aims to provide the first direct link between the markets of the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and PJM Interconnection, ITC said.

ITC Holdings, a Fortis (NYSE:FTS) company, on Oct. 24 said that its wholly owned subsidiary ITC Lake Erie Connector LLC has received notice that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued the necessary permits for the ITC Lake Erie Connector transmission line.

In November, DOE said that it has issued a record of decision (ROD) and approved the Presidential Permit for the proposed 192-mile Northern Pass Transmission project that is designed to deliver up to 1,090 MW of hydropower from Québec, Canada to Deerfield, N.H.

Northern Pass Transmission LLC noted in a separate Nov. 16 statement that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is expected to issue a separate final ROD soon in response to Northern Pass Transmission’s application for a special use permit to allow burial of the transmission line through the White Mountain National Forest. 

Hurricanes

Following the devastation that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria left in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, among other areas, TransmissionHub reached out to various entities, including FERC, NERC, and ERCOT, to discuss how entities collaborate to ensure that the grid is protected in light of severe weather events; what can be done at the legislative/regulatory level to ensure that the grid remains functional during and after severe weather events; and how entities are implementing new technologies to protect the grid against severe weather events.

As reported, Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the Lower Florida Keys on the morning of Sept. 10, a couple of weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas, on Aug. 25.

Hurricane Maria made landfall along the southern coast of Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, according to the DOE Infrastructure Security & Energy Restoration “Event Summary (Report #39).” According to a New York Times article, updated on Dec. 9, while the official death toll in Puerto Rico is 64, the actual number of deaths may be 1,052. The New York Times also reported, “Record-keeping has been delayed because Puerto Rico’s power grid is operating at less than 70 percent of its capacity and swaths of the island still do not have power.”

One of the entities that TransmissionHub reached out to in the fall to discuss the electric industry’s response following the hurricanes was the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

Scott Aaronson, executive director for Security and Business Continuity at EEI, told TransmissionHub, in part, that while having regulations in place “gives us a leg up on being better prepared and more secure,” the industry also has to look at response and recovery.

Partnerships between and among the sector, as well as with government partners, makes the industry better prepared to respond and recover in the event of a storm or any sort of malicious incident, he said.

New FERC commissioners

Former FERC Chairman Norman Bay, in a Jan. 26 letter to President Donald Trump, said that he was resigning his appointment from FERC, and, as noted in a Jan. 26 FERC statement, Trump named FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur acting chairman.

In June, former FERC Commissioner Colette Honorable said on Twitter that her last day as a commissioner would be June 30.

FERC on Aug. 4 said that the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to join the commission.

Chatterjee will serve out the remainder of a term that ends in June 2021, FERC said at the time, adding that Powelson will serve out the remainder of a term that ends in June 2020.

Before those confirmations, FERC had been with only one member, LaFleur, following the departure of Honorable.

In November, FERC said that the Senate confirmed the nominations of Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick to join FERC, with McIntyre to serve as commission chairman.

McIntyre will serve out the remainder of a term that ends June 2018, and a full term that ends June 2023, while Glick will serve out the remainder of a term that ends in June 2022, FERC said.

Regional matters

The Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) on Feb. 28 published its “2017 State of the Assets,” in which it noted, for instance, that this year, it would focus on a few projects that present the best value for its Desert Southwest (DSW) customers, including the Tucson substation project.

That project involves building a new 230-kV substation yard with control building that will replace the existing 115-kV yard to prepare for future capacity needs, WAPA said in its document.

As noted on WAPA’s website, the Tucson substation is located in Tucson, Pima County, Ariz., on WAPA fee-owned lands in Township 13 South, Range 13 East, Section 35 (Gila and Salt River Baseline and Meridian).

TransmissionHub in March reported that PJM, in its 2016 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP) Report, said that flatter load growth and generation shifts driven by fuel economics in particular, have shifted transmission need away from large-scale backbone projects needed by 2021 or beyond.

PJM’s most recent 2017 load forecast report projects summer peak load growth for the RTO to average 0.2% per year over the next 10 years, the report said, noting that PJM’s 2013 load forecast report projected summer peak load growth for the RTO to average 1.3% per year over the next 10 years.

The California ISO (CAISO) on March 15 said that its Board of Governors approved the CAISO’s 2016-2017 Transmission Plan, which included a recommendation that the board approve two reliability driven transmission projects that were identified as needed to ensure compliance with NERC and CAISO planning standards.

As TransmissionHub reported, those two projects are the $6m Big Creek Rating Increase Project in the Southern California Edison (SCE) service area that has an expected in-service date of Dec. 31, 2018; and the $18m Lugo-Victorville 500-kV Upgrade (SCE portion) in the SCE service area that has an expected in-service date of December 2018.

The New York ISO (NYISO) on Oct. 17 said that its Board of Directors has selected the “Empire State Line Proposal” from NextEra Energy’s (NYSE:NEE) NextEra Energy Transmission New York to address the public policy need for new transmission in western New York.

As noted in the accompanying “Western New York Public Policy Transmission Planning Report” – which the NYISO said its board has also approved – NextEra’s “Empire State Line Proposal 1,” or “Project T014,” includes a new Dysinger 345-kV substation, a new East Stolle 345-kV switchyard, and a 345-kV line connecting the Dysinger and East Stolle substations, with a 700 MVA 345-kV phase angle regulator at the Dysinger end of the line.

The Ontario Ministry of Energy on Oct. 26 released the 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP), which noted that the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) demand outlook indicates that there will be no need for any major expansion of the province’s transmission system beyond the projects already planned or under development.

According to the LTEP, major transmission projects under development across Ontario include the Northwest Bulk Transmission Line, which is needed to support growth and maintain a reliable electricity supply to areas west of Atikokan and north of Dryden.

ISO New England (ISO-NE) in November said that according to its “2017 Regional System Plan (RSP17),” with growing levels of photovoltaic (PV) and energy efficiency (EE) resources, the 10-year demand forecast shows total annual use of electric energy declining by 0.6% per year, with the summer peak declining 0.1% annually by 2026 under normal weather conditions.

The RSP17, which is the biennial report that provides the foundation for long-term power system planning in the region, also noted that the 11th Forward Capacity Market auction (FCA #11), held in February, procured sufficient resources to meet resource adequacy criteria through 2021, with about 264 MW of new generation and 640 MW of new demand side resources.

The Midcontinent ISO (MISO) on Dec. 7 said that its board of directors has approved 353 transmission projects, representing an investment of $2.6bn, as part of the 2017 MISO Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP) that is aimed at improving energy access and reliability.

The upgrades included in MTEP17 ensure the continuing reliability of the regional grid; interconnect new generation supplies; provide for increased market efficiency; and reduce congestion between MISO and neighboring regions, MISO said.

On legislation and regulation

WIRES in March said that while bipartisanship may be elusive on many fronts, there is widespread agreement among a diverse group of energy companies, environmental groups, as well as construction, manufacturing, and technology firms that the North American electric grid is in urgent need of investment and modernization.

WIRES and other entities, including the American Wind Energy Association, Anbaric Transmission, CAISO, Clean Line Energy Partners, Henkels & McCoy, Lucky Corridor, Pacific Gas and Electric, and TransWest Express, sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to think about the grid when considering improving America’s infrastructure, according to the WIRES statement.

In June, TransmissionHub reported that U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member, introduced S. 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 (ENRA), according to June 29 committee statements posted under Democratic and Republican news.

The bill, which is focused on a wide range of energy and natural resources opportunities and challenges, features 11 “titles reflecting common ground on efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, conservation, federal land management, National Park System management, sportsmen’s issues, water infrastructure, natural hazards, and Indian energy,” the statement noted.

FERC, in an order issued on Oct. 6, rejected the New England Transmission Owners’ (NETOs) June 5 filing seeking to reinstate their previous FERC-allowed returns on equity (ROE), which were lowered under a now-vacated FERC order.

FERC, in its order, required the NETOs to continue collecting their ROEs currently on file, subject to a future FERC order.

According to the order, the NETOs are Emera Maine; Central Maine Power; Eversource Energy Service Company; National Grid; New Hampshire Transmission LLC; The United Illuminating Company; Unitil Energy Systems; Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company; and Vermont Transco LLC.

Also in October, TransmissionHub reported that according to some company officials, a repeal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), as was proposed, would not affect the electric transmission and generation plans of such companies as Idaho Power and FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE).

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Oct. 10 issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, proposing to repeal the CPP, according to an EPA statement.

An Idaho Power spokesperson on Oct. 12 told TransmissionHub that the company is working on two large 500-kV projects that were initiated prior to the CPP, adding, “The plan did not have an impact on the need for those projects, and they remain in progress.”

Two 500-kV projects that Idaho Power is working on, according to its website, are the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project and the Gateway West Transmission Line Project.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Nov. 17 released its ROD for the Boardman to Hemingway project, according to the project’s website.

Mergers

Westar Energy (NYSE:WR) and Great Plains Energy (NYSE:GXP) (GPE) on July 10 said that both companies’ boards of directors have unanimously approved a revised transaction that involves no premium paid or received with respect to either company, no transaction debt, no exchange of cash, and is a stock-for-stock merger of equals, creating a company with a combined equity value of about $14bn.

As TransmissionHub reported, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) on May 23 denied the May 4 petition filed by GPE and Westar, in which the companies requested reconsideration of the KCC’s April 19 order that denied the companies’ June 2016 joint application, which sought approval for GPE’s acquisition of Westar.

Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy in November announced that shareholders approved the proposals necessary for the merger between the two companies.

Exelon (NYSE:EXC) on July 20 said that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals has affirmed the approval of the Public Service Commission (PSC) of the District of Columbia of Exelon’s merger with Pepco Holdings (PHI).

The company noted that the merger combined its three electric and gas utilities, BGE, ComEd and PECO, with PHI’s three electric and gas utilities, Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power, and Pepco.

As noted in the court’s opinion, which was decided on July 20, the petitioners – the Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC), the District of Columbia Government, and DC Solar United Neighborhoods jointly with Public Citizen, Inc., (collectively DC SUN) – sought review of the PSC’s decision that approved the merger application involving Exelon’s purchase of PHI and its subsidiary, Pepco.

Hydro One Limited (TSX:H) and Avista (NYSE:AVA) filed applications with state utility commissions in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Alaska, as well as with FERC, requesting regulatory approval of the companies’ proposed merger, according to a Sept. 14 statement posted on Hydro One’s website.

Under the terms of the all-cash transaction, Avista shareholders would receive $53 per common share, representing a 24% premium to Avista’s last sale price on July 18, of $42.74 per share, according to the application filed with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. The aggregate purchase price is about $5.3bn, comprised of an equity purchase price of $3.4bn and the indirect assumption of about $1.9bn of debt, the application noted.

Also, FERC, in an order issued on Dec. 11, concluded that the proposed transaction under which Sempra Energy will indirectly acquire 80.03% of the ownership interest in Oncor Electric Delivery Company (Oncor) “is consistent with the public interest and is authorized, subject to” certain conditions, including that the companies are to notify FERC within 10 days of the date that the merger has been consummated.

Under the proposed transaction, Sempra Energy will acquire the indirect ownership interests in Oncor for $9.45bn in cash, the order stated.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3067 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.