SPP outlines 2019 projects and goals

Long-term transmission plan approved at recent board meeting

At the January 29th Southwest Power Pool (SPP) Board of Directors and Members Committee meeting, stakeholders got a preview of the organization’s primary goals and projects for the upcoming year. The board also endorsed a new transmission expansion report that details SPP’s transmission projects for the next 20 years.

Transmission upgrades offer far-reaching benefits

The 2019 SPP Transmission Expansion Plan Report (STEP) is a comprehensive listing of all current and future planned transmission projects in the SPP region, including those completed in 2018. It consists of 568 upgrades with a total cost of $5.2 billion.

“The upgrades defined in STEP will benefit the entire region, including our customers,” said Heartland Chief Operations Officer Nate Jones. “Adding transmission reduces congestion and losses on the system. This helps narrow the gap between generation price and load expense, which reduces our market risk and related costs.”

According to the report, projects estimated to cost nearly $1.8 billion will be constructed over the next five years in 13 states.

STEP also summarizes work completed in 2018 that helped advance the organization’s overall goals.

Last year, SPP’s member companies completed 98 transmission system upgrades in seven states estimated to cost $779 million. These upgrades will benefit the region by:

  • facilitating connection of new generators, including large amounts of wind energy
  • ensuring low-cost electricity is delivered to consumers
  • facilitating connection of new sources of electricity demand to the transmission system, such as data centers and gas and oil infrastructure
  • solving power grid issues that, if not addressed, could impact the reliable delivery of electricity or cause power outages

“Our members’ investments in the regional transmission system are one reason SPP’s energy market offers among the lowest prices for wholesale energy in the country,” said Lanny Nickell, SPP vice president of engineering. “We are continually analyzing and upgrading our power grid to ensure customers can receive reliable, affordable energy now and in the future.”

All board-approved projects are included in the 2019 STEP Project List, which also includes SPP Tariff study projects, economic projects and zonal projects.

SPP is requesting feedback on proposed solutions to transmission needs to aid in the development of STEP. Stakeholders and interested parties may submit written comments on the projects included in STEP.

2019 goals: implement and improve services

SPP President and CEO Nick Brown said the organization will also focus on the following projects in 2019:

  • Implementing RC services in the west, scheduled to go live in December
  • Replacing its settlements system, which processes more than $20 billion per year in revenues that flow through the SPP markets
  • Revamp of fee collection by the Schedule 1A Task Force to support SPP’s administrative services
  • Holistic Integrated Tariff Team review of SPP’s transmission planning, markets and cost-allocation processes to look for improvements
  • Value and Affordability Task Force analysis of cost recovery for transmission investments and the ongoing benefits members receive from SPP and transmission infrastructure
  • Continuing to improve SPP’s study process that facilitates connecting new generation to the grid

“Their 2019 initiatives are valuable continuing improvements that will ease doing business with SPP,” Jones said.

Other actions taken during the meeting:

  • Election of three representatives to the Members Committee for three-year terms. American Electric Power’s Peggy Simmons will represent the investor-owned utility sector, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Tom Christensen and Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s Zac Perkins will represent the cooperative sector.
  • Approval of a rate structure recommended by the Schedule 1A Task Force and previously approved by SPP’s Finance and Markets and Operations Policy Committees. The task force developed new cost-recovery schedules that are simple in design and appropriately charge and compensate users of SPP’s markets and transmission systems.