Tuesday, December 30, 2014

SWEPCO drops power line project across Ozarks

Posted By on Tue, Dec 30, 2014 at 3:14 PM

NO MORE: SWEPCO says it won't build a new power line in Northwest Arkansas. Map shows several of the routes that had been considered.
  • NO MORE: SWEPCO says it won't build a new power line in Northwest Arkansas. Map shows several of the routes that had been considered.

Southwestern Electric Power Company
announced in a news release today that it is dropping plans for a $116 million power line across Northwest Arkansas because the project is no longer needed. It would have covered 60 miles between Benton and Carroll Counties.

The line had been the subject of hot dispute. Save the Ozarks was among the groups that fought the route of the line and successfully petitioned the Public Service Commission for a rehearing of both the need for and route of the line.

From the release:

SHREVEPORT, La., Dec. 30, 2014 –Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) today withdrew its pending application for state regulatory approval to construct a $116 million 345 kilovolt (kV) electric transmission project in Northwest Arkansas. The withdrawal is the result of notification by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) that the proposed project is no longer needed.

SPP is the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and competitive wholesale prices of electricity in parts of eight states, including Arkansas.

In its notification letter SPP said it based its determination primarily on updated forecasts that show significantly lower electric demand than prior forecasts in an area identified as having the highest impact on the need for the project. In addition the cancellation of several large, long-term transmission service reservations further reduces reliability needs in the area. SPP has initiated the process to withdraw the Notification to Construct (NTC), which was the basis for SWEPCO’s application to the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

“As a transmission owning member of SPP, SWEPCO’s role is to obtain regulatory approval and to construct electric transmission facilities as directed by SPP. SPP determines the need for projects based on studies containing future load growth and other transmission system usage projections,” said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. “Based on SPP’s new findings, we are notifying landowners, community leaders and elected officials that we have withdrawn our application to the APSC for authority to construct the Shipe Road to Kings River transmission project.”

As part of its long-term transmission planning process, SPP issued a NTC in February 2008 that directed SWEPCO to build multiple transmission projects across the region over an eight-year period to meet projected reliability needs. The last of those was a new 345 kV transmission line approximately 60 miles long from western Benton County to a new substation in Carroll County, Arkansas. The project was scheduled to be in service in June 2016.

In April 2013, SWEPCO filed an application with the APSC for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) to construct the facilities. On Jan. 17, 2014, an administrative law judge for the APSC issued Order No. 32 granting a CECPN for the 345 kV transmission project.

In response to requests for rehearing of the application made in March 2014, the APSC granted a rehearing, vacated the prior CECPN and indicated additional evidence on the need for the facilities and proposed transmission line routing was necessary for a final decision by the full Commission. SPP agreed to conduct a re-evaluation. The SPP study yielded different results than the previous analyses due to reduction in forecasted load and a reduction in long-term transmission service transactions by SPP’s transmission customers since the time of the last evaluation.

As a result, on Dec. 29, 2014, SPP notified SWEPCO that its study results now indicate that the proposed 345 kV transmission line is not required to maintain reliability in the northern Arkansas and southern Missouri area. SPP said it is initiating the process to withdraw the NTC, which is expected to be finalized in January 2015.

SWEPCO serves more than 524,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana, northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle.

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