700-Mile Clean Line Project Overcomes State Restrictions via DOE Partnership

On March 25, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would partner with Clean Line Energy Partners (Clean Line) to support the development of the Plains & Eastern 700-mile HVDC transmission line. Once completed, the transmission line will transport up to 4,000 MWs of wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle to the Southeast. Clean Line’s partnership with the DOE revived the project, which was blocked in 2011 by Arkansas regulators.

Plains & Eastern HVDC Transmission Project Map

InsightImage_PlainsandEasternHVDCTransmissionProjectMap

Key Details:

  • Clean Line’s Plains & Eastern project was proposed to deliver nearly 4,000 MW of renewable power from wind-heavy SPP to the wind-limited Southeast
    • The Plains & Eastern project will provide about a 500% increase in the amount of renewable power delivered to the Southeast
    • 500 MW targeted for Arkansas
  • The project was initially stalled by Arkansas regulators because Clean Line did not meet the state’s statutory definition of a “public utility”
  • The DOE stepped in to “override” Arkansas regulators by using an obscure rule signed into law by the Bush administration
    • To bypass Arkansas’ roadblock, Clean Line and the DOE are leveraging Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). Section 1222 was intended to promote interstate transmission development by allowing the DOE to partner with other entities to upgrade or construct new transmission assets that qualify as designated National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors
  • The ability of the DOE to effectively overrule a state’s transmission siting restrictions is contentious, and Arkansas regulators are expected to challenge the legality of the statute

Implications

This case has important implications for transmission siting, given that it is the first test of the DOE’s backstop siting over the objections of a state regulator.

More Information

SNL: https://www.snl.com/InteractiveX/article.aspx?CDID=A-35883731-11819&KPLT=4

Clean Line: http://www.plainsandeasterncleanline.com/site/page/project-description

This report is part of ScottMadden’s Grid Minute series. To view all featured Grid Minutes, please click here.

Contributing Author: Mark Ladisch

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