The Public Utility Commission of Texas, in a Jan. 26 final order, denied an application of Brazos Electric Power Cooperative to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity for a 138-kV transmission line and associated substation in Collin County.
A Brazos Electric representative could not be immediately reached for comment by press time on Jan. 31.
As noted in the final order, a November 2017, proposal for decision issued by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) recommended that the application be granted, and that the commission approve construction of the line and substation along “route 8.”
Noting that it disagrees with that recommendation, the commission said that after evaluating the evidence in the record, it finds that Brazos Electric did not establish that the certificate is necessary for the service of the public.
As the applicant requesting relief from the commission, Brazos Electric bears the burden of proof in this case, the commission said, adding, “After reviewing the evidence submitted by Brazos, the commission finds that Brazos has failed to establish the need for the new Kittyhawk substation and transmission line under [the Public Utility Regulatory Act, or] PURA.”
Brazos Electric’s need study for the project analyzes and reports its findings on two principal components of the need requirement: the projected growth in demand in the subject area, and whether there are distribution-level alternatives to building new transmission-level assets to satisfy the projected demand growth.
The commission added that examples of the insufficiency of the evidence relating to the necessity for the new substation and line are Brazos Electric’s “unsupported, conclusory statements on the unavailability of transmission capacity at existing substations and the inadequately supported analysis on the projected growth in demand.”
While Brazos Electric’s application asserts that anticipated load growth in the study area requires an additional substation – Kittyhawk – the undisputed evidence shows that three existing substations – Craig Ranch, Lebanon, and Custer – can accommodate additional step-down transformers to serve load, the commission said.
The Craig Ranch substation has transmission capacity and space for a fourth transformer; the Lebanon substation has the transmission capacity and space for a fourth transformer; and the Custer substation has transmission capacity and space for a fifth and sixth transformer, the commission said. In total, the existing substations have the ability to support four additional transformers, with a planning capacity of 40 MVA each, totaling an additional 160 MVA of planning capacity, the commission said.
Brazos Electric’s application seeks commission approval to build the additional substation and line at a cost of more than $25m, the commission noted, adding that according to the purpose and need study, Brazos Electric predicts that its 2025 demand would be 342.7 MVA. Brazos Electric predicts that its 2025 planning capacity would be 248 MVA, but that planning capacity excludes any additional transformers in any of the three existing substations, the commission said.
“According to the undisputed evidence, there is existing transmission capacity, and Brazos’s three existing substations can physically accommodate an additional four step-down transformers, adding an additional 160 MVA of planning capacity to the area,” the commission said. “If the additional transformers can be utilized, Brazos’s 2025 planning capacity would be 408 MVA, which exceeds Brazos’s predicted 2025 demand of 342.7 MVA.”
Brazos Electric acknowledges that the existing substations can physically accommodate additional transformers and that if those additional transformers can be used, there would not be a predicted capacity shortage. The commission added that Brazos Electric’s premise for seeking a new substation and line to address its predicted load growth is that adding transformers to the existing substations is fruitless because of the lack of distribution feeder access for any additional transformers.
Thus, the commission said, the evidence supporting Brazos’ premise is crucial in ascertaining whether need for the new substation is established.
The commission added: “Brazos, however, introduced no concrete and specific evidence to establish the absence of substation feeder access. Because of this lack of critical evidence on whether there exists additional substation feeder access to existing substations, the commission finds Brazos failed to meet its burden of proof that the new 138-kV transmission line and associated Kittyhawk substation is necessary.”
Among other things, the commission said that it adopts the SOAH’s proposal for decision’s findings and conclusions on procedural events, as well as descriptions of the application that are consistent with the order.