Bill could boost transmission capacity within Michigan

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Two bills recently introduced in Michigan seek to authorize the construction of infrastructure that would increase the transmission capacity between the state’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

Senate Bill (SB) 282 and House Bill (HB) 4575, both called the Michigan Electric Infrastructure Act, would regulate the siting and construction of new electric transmission lines and prescribe powers and duties of certain state and local entities and officials to form the Michigan Electric Infrastructure Board under the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

SB 282 and HB 4575 are companions, which means they started out as the same bill, and were introduced in both the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, a spokesperson for Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson’s office told TransmissionHub on May 26.

Casperson on April 21 introduced SB 282, which was immediately referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology. Michigan Rep. Triston Cole on May 12 introduced HB 4575, which was immediately referred to the House Committee on Energy Policy. The House Fiscal Agency on May 19 began an analysis of HB 4575.

The spokesperson said that the identical bills were introduced in both chambers to provide an advantage throughout the legislative process.

“If we’re able to find an easier route through the House, [Cole’s] bill would come over to the Senate, and if we’re able to find an easier route through the Senate, [Casperson’s] bill would go over to the House,” he said. “The House is a bit further ahead in [the] process than the Senate right now.”

As introduced, the Michigan Electric Infrastructure Act establishes a seven-member Michigan Electric Infrastructure Board to operate independently from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), according to the bill text. Michigan’s governor would appoint the members, which would include:

·      A representative of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

·      A representative of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

·      A representative of the Michigan Energy Office

·      A representative of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation

·      A representative of the technical staff of the MPSC

·      A resident of the Upper Peninsula

·      A resident of the Lower Peninsula

The board would be responsible for soliciting proposals for transmission projects that would increase the connectivity between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas beyond the capability of the existing 138-kV McGulpin–Straits #1 and #2 lines, which are submerged in the Straits of Mackinac. The new circuit would create one resource adequacy zone within the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) footprint in Michigan.

According to the bill text, any project selected by the board must be reviewed and approved by the MPSC and MISO.

The board would be responsible for publishing a list of Michigan counties that contain transmission facilities on which constraints have caused congestion in the past five years. In addition, the board would solicit proposals for transmission facilities that could provide additional capacity to that list of counties, as well as any facilities that could reduce congestion, constraints and losses on the system and reduce electricity prices.

The board also would solicit proposals for facilities that could ensure the deliverability of generation resources both internal and external to the state to loads throughout the state for purposes of resource adequacy, and facilitate generation resource diversification.

MISO, in its June 2013 Northern Area Study, examined 13 different transmission solutions to mitigate congestion around Lake Michigan, based on the availability of Wisconsin Electric Power Co.’s d/b/a We Energies’ 344 MW Presque Isle generator units in the Upper Peninsula.

MISO said in the study that availability of the Presque Isle units decreased the production cost saving potential for new Upper Peninsula transmission lines. Ultimately, MISO determined that there could be adjusted production cost savings associated with building additional transmission paths around Lake Michigan, but due to the high cost of transmission, the options in the study were not cost effective under the conditions tested.

Last April, We Energies decided to shutter the Presque Isle units, but MISO directed the company to keep the units running for reliability purposes. MISO currently is working to identify the load serving entities that benefit from the operation of the Presque Isle units in the region, so it can allocate the costs to run the units directly to the benefiting entities.

A MISO spokesperson told TransmissionHub on May 26 that, while there is no plan to update the Northern Area Study, there are a number of planning studies currently looking at the transmission needs for the region.

“Studies are underway to evaluate necessary transmission and generation alternatives to ensure reliability is maintained once [the Presque Isle units] are decommissioned,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, MISO is always undertaking a study of the changing needs of the transmission system through our MISO transmission expansion planning (MTEP) process – this is an 18-month process that allows stakeholders to present proposed transmission projects for consideration.”

He said that any projects proposed in the MTEP process are studied and evaluated for selection.

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