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Studies and Reports > 2015 MN Biennial Report > Executive Summary


Transmission Projects Report 2015
Chapter 1: Executive Summary

1.0 Executive Summary

The 2015 Biennial Transmission Projects Report is the eighth such report prepared since the requirement to prepare this report was established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2001. All of the previous Biennial Reports are available for review on a webpage maintained by the utilities preparing the report. That webpage is:

http://www.minnelectrans.com

The requirement is found in Minn. Stat. § 216B.2425. That law requires utilities that own or operate electric transmission facilities in the state to report by November 1 of each odd numbered year on the status of the transmission system, including identifying possible solutions to anticipated inadequacies in the transmission system. The MTO has consistently defined an "inadequacy" as essentially a situation where the present transmission infrastructure is unable or likely to be unable in the foreseeable future to perform in a consistently reliable fashion and in compliance with regulatory standards.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission established six transmission planning zones across the state in 2003. Those six transmission planning zones are the Northwest Zone, the Northeast Zone, the West Central Zone, the Twin Cities Zone, the Southwest Zone, and the Southeast Zone. Information about transmission facilities in each of the zones is included in the report.

The 2015 Biennial Report identifies the present and reasonably foreseeable transmission "inadequacies" in the transmission system that exist in each of these six transmission planning zones. Each inadequacy has been assigned a Tracking Number. Information about each inadequacy identified by a Tracking Number is provided. Projects that were identified in earlier reports and assigned a Tracking Number but which have been completed or withdrawn in the past two years are also identified.

This 2015 Biennial Report, as were the previous reports, is a joint effort of the Minnesota Transmission Owners – those utilities that own or operate high voltage transmission lines in the state of Minnesota. These utilities include the following:

American Transmission Company, LLC
East River Electric Power Cooperative
Hutchinson Utilities Commission
L&O Power Cooperative
Minnesota Power
Missouri River Energy Services
Otter Tail Power Company
Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency
Dairyland Power Cooperative
Great River Energy
ITC Midwest LLC
Marshall Municipal Utilities
Minnkota Power Cooperative
Northern States Power Company
Rochester Public Utilities
Willmar Municipal Utilities

Information about each of these utilities, including their transmission assets in the various zones, is provided in the Report.

As required by the statute, the Biennial Report also provides an update on the status of the utilities' efforts to meet state Renewable Energy Standard deadlines.

In 2015, the Legislature established a new reporting requirement for certain utilities. Minn. Laws 2015, 1Sp2015, ch. 1, art 3, s 22, codified at Minn. Stat. § 216B.2425, subds. 2(e) and 8. This new reporting requirement is explained in further detail in Chapter 2, subsection 2.6. Pursuant to that requirement, Xcel Energy, the only utility to which it applies, has submitted a separate report entitled Grid Modernization Report to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission under the same docket as the Biennial Report.

The following is a summary of each subsequent chapter of the 2015 Biennial Report.

Chapter 2 describes the biennial reporting requirements. This includes a discussion of the specific information the Public Utilities Commission directed the utilities to include in the 2015 Biennial Report.

Chapter 3 is entitled Transmission Studies. This chapter includes a table listing a number of studies that have been completed over the past two years. In addition, a number of ongoing regional studies are described in some detail, and several more local, load-serving studies are identified in a separate table. A description of the MISO Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP) Report is included since most planning is now conducted by the Midcontinent Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) and the MTEP Reports are where most of the information about the pending projects can be found.

Chapter 4 is the Public Participation chapter. Several recent examples are provided regarding how utilities have provided opportunities for the general public and local government to learn about and participate in the development of new transmission projects. This chapter summarizes the evolution of MPUC requirements relating to transmission planning and the preparation and submission of the Biennial Report. A section is included describing the webpage the Minnesota Transmission Owners maintain (www.minnelectrans.com ) that is available to the public to learn about ongoing transmission projects.

Chapter 5 provides general information about the six Transmission Planning Zones in the state.

Chapter 6 is where all the Transmission Needs are identified. The Report identifies well over 100 separate transmission inadequacies across the state, including more than 40 new ones identified in the 2015 Biennial Report.

Each inadequacy is assigned a Tracking Number. The Tracking Number reflects the year the inadequacy was identified and the zone in which it is located. A brief description of each project is provided in the Report, and a reference is provided for each one to where detailed information can be found in the applicable MISO Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP) Report. The 2015 MTEP Report, for example, would be called MTEP15. In addition, information about each pending project, by Tracking Number, is provided. This information addresses issues like alternatives considered, a schedule, and the general impacts on the environment and the area if the project were constructed.

The MTEP Report referenced in the table for each Tracking Number will contain detailed information about the project, including alternatives, costs, and a schedule. Chapter 6 also presents comprehensive instructions on how to find on the Internet the appropriate MTEP Report containing the desired information. The utilities have also attempted to indicate whether a Certificate of Need (CON) from the Public Utilities Commission might be required for a particular project selected to address a named inadequacy.

Certain projects have been completed since the 2013 Report was filed two years ago or are no longer necessary because of a change in demand or some other factor. These completed or cancelled projects are listed in a table for each zone in Chapter 6.

Chapter 7 focuses on the 16 utilities that are jointly filing this report. A brief description of each utility and the name and address of a contact person are provided. Information about the number of miles of transmission lines in Minnesota is also provided for each utility.

Chapter 8 provides an analysis of the utilities' progress toward compliance with state Renewable Energy Standards. Not all utilities that own transmission lines are subject to the state Renewable Energy Standards, and some utilities that are not required to participate in the Biennial Report must meet the RES milestones. All utilities subject to the RES participated in providing information for this part of the report.

For the past several reporting periods, and again this year at the direction of the MPUC, the utilities subject to the RES have provided a Gap Analysis. A Gap Analysis is an estimate of how many more megawatts of renewable generating capacity a utility will require beyond what is presently available to meet an upcoming RES milestone of a certain percentage of retail sales from renewables. Generally, the Gap Analysis shows that the utilities are in compliance with present standards and expect to have enough generation and transmission to meet RES milestones through 2016, although demands of neighboring states for renewable energy will undoubtedly affect what resources will be required.

Chapter 8 also provides a brief summary of the information a number of the utilities just submitted to the MPUC pursuant to a statute that requires annual reporting regarding compliance with upcoming solar energy standards.

MPUC Process. Upon receipt of this Report, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will solicit comments from the Department of Commerce, interested parties, and the general public about the Report. Any person interested in commenting on the Report or following the comments of others should check the efiling docket for this matter or in some other manner contact the Public Utilities Commission. The Docket Number is E999/M-15-439. The precise schedule for filing comments is established by the MPUC rules relating to the biennial reporting process. Minn. Rules Chapter 7848. It is anticipated that the MPUC will make a final decision on the 2015 Biennial Transmission Projects Report in May 2016.