Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Winds of Change: Rule Could Increase Renewable Electricity to Other Regions

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Winds of Change: Rule Could Increase Renewable Electricity to Other Regions

Article excerpt

A rule intended to increase renewable electricity on the grid could soon change the way transmission lines are planned and built. Though the rule is subject to change, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rule called Order 1000 would require electric transmission lines to undergo the competitive bidding process. The regional transmission organization that manages the electrical grid for Oklahoma and eight other states, Southwest Power Pool, argues that bidding will slow down building transmission lines.

At a July 10 Oklahoma Corporation Commission hearing, Southwest Power Pool Senior Vice President of Regulatory Policy and General Counsel Paul Suskie said the rule would require even small transmission lines to be put out for bid, rather than simply assigning the work to the local utility. That would eliminate what is known as the right of first refusal, in which a utility may choose to build the project or pass.

"We would be bidding out a 69-kV line in Oklahoma; that is not what we're here for," Suskie said. "We're here to plan the grid, manage it, and (make sure it is reliable)."

Pete Hoelscher, spokesman for Southwest Power Pool, wrote in an email that the new federal rule's real benefit is the requirement to plan and build transmission projects between regions.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. is one utility that would have to compete with other businesses if the rule remains unchanged. Company spokesman Brian Alford said the utility would prefer the right of first refusal to remain in place, but understands the direction the FERC is taking.

In a comment submitted to the federal agency regarding the rule, the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative asked the agency to allow regional transmission organizations to keep the right of first refusal on a limited basis, rather than eliminating that right nationwide. …

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