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Stringing Transmission Lines, Untangling Red Tape

Centralized federal oversight sounds good, but what about squabbles between separate federal agencies?
Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 2001

that would run through that state, the two companies now await approval from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The project, known as Power Up Wisconsin, has several different routes under consideration.

The project announcement came after an incident occurred that brought attention to the region's vulnerability. On June 25, 1998, the King/Eau Clair line went down, bringing several Midwestern states and Canadian provinces to the edge of a full-scale, regional blackout. A benefit of the Wausau-Duluth line is that it would take a path different from King/Eau Clair, the only existing 345-kilovolt line linking Minnesota and Wisconsin. That should reduce the risk of a single storm knocking out both lines. Further, the new line would provide a Wisconsin-Minnesota electrical connection that would bypass heavy power flows through the population-dense Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

For more detail, see the initial ten-year assessment issued June 1 by American Transmission Co., the stand-alone "transco" that now owns and operates most of Wisconsin's electric grid (

In his energy plan released in June, Gov. McCallum listed the proposed Duluth-Wausau line as a priority, and said that approval by the PSC could come as early as the end of the summer.

California. To the west, California's Path 15 represents a series of parallel North/South lines that form a bottleneck in restricting power deliveries sent up from Southern California when hydroelectric output available to Northern California runs short.

In February, the California ISO released its "Path 15 Cost Analysis Study," ( 20215200926969.html). It concluded that the total additional cost of energy and ancillary services from Path 15 congestion was up to $221.7 million between September 1999 and December 2000.

Ziad Alaywan, managing director of engineering at the California ISO, wrote at the time that the results of the study should "support and justify a Path 15 transmission upgrade to alleviate the Path 15 congestion costs to the consumers of the state of California."

The upgrade is estimated to increase the non-simultaneous rating on Path 15 from the current south-north limit of 3,750 MW to between 5,000 and 5,500 MW or more. In addition to reducing costs, one intention of the project would be to prevent load interruptions such as what occurred in Northern California in January 2000. An April 13 letter from PG&E solicited interest in addressing the project through a "Regional Planning Review Group." PG&E also has initiated the Western Systems Coordinating Council's three-phase rating process; a progress report for Phase 1 was expected at the end of July.

Measuring Need and Benefits

Bernie Pasternack, director, transmission planning at AEP, explains why it is not so easy to determine need for a transmission upgrade, or to judge the benefits when work is completed.

"The primary reason for building the line [AEP's 765-kv project] is really to supply the native load in AEP's service area [but] I'm not sure there's any real good metric that tells you how much it improves. One way of looking at it is that without the line we know that we had a number of contingency situations that would cause serious