The region’s grid operator is soon expected to approve the first phase of high-voltage power line projects in its multi-phase Long-Range Transmission Plan.
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (MISO) plan calls for $10 billion and more in transmission investment across the 15-state region in the next decade, including several projects in Minnesota.
The addition of low-cost renewable energy — along with the retirement of power plants, electrification and the increasing need for resilience to more extreme weather — is spurring the need for these power grid upgrades to maintain reliability. Utilities across the region are significantly increasing the amount of low-cost renewable energy they provide to their customers. Great River Energy alone will nearly triple the amount of renewable energy, primarily wind energy, in its portfolio by 2025.
Great River Energy is working closely with MISO throughout its planning process, providing leadership and advocating for the power line projects that are in the best interest of the cooperative’s member-owners.
“Great River Energy supports the need for more regional transmission to facilitate the transition that is taking place in our region’s energy mix and address the challenges we face with extreme weather. We know that new transmission is needed at the regional level and we have been actively advocating for the projects that are best for reliability, affordability and fairness for our members.”Priti Patel, vice president and chief transmission officer at Great River Energy
Aubrey Johnson, MISO’s vice president of system planning and competitive transmission, spoke to transmission employees at Great River Energy on May 25 about the upcoming electric grid expansion.
“We are about to work on the largest package of transmission projects in the history of our country,” Johnson said.
Johnson said a majority of the projects are planned using existing rights of way, on land that is already being used for power lines. Final decisions have not yet been made regarding the projects that will be built, their specific routes, or which utilities will own and construct them.
The last major grid expansion in the Upper Midwest was completed in 2017. That expansion included more than 600 miles of high-voltage transmission lines built jointly by the CapX2020 utilities. Those transmission lines created new pathways for renewable energy and bolstered reliability. CapX2020, which is now operating under the name Grid North Partners, is an organization of 10 Minnesota transmission owners that came together in the 2000s to upgrade and expand the region’s electric grid.
“We are expecting the next grid expansion to be six or more times the scale of the last build-out, which included the CapX2020 lines,” said Gordon Pietsch, Great River Energy’s director of transmission planning and compliance. “Those transmission lines continue to deliver what they were intended to, and now we need another expansion as our fleet of power generation sources transitions.”