SPP Supports $55M Oklahoma Transmission Project

SPP Supports $55M Oklahoma Transmission Project
Barbara Sugg, President and CEO of Southwest Power Pool (Kerry Prichard)

Southwest Power Pool of Little Rock has thrown its support behind a $55 million electricity transmission project in Oklahoma, the 48.4-mile Minco Pleasant Valley-Draper Project.

SPP’s board of directors approved the 345-kilovolt power line, to be built by NextEra Energy Transmission Southwest LLC between the Minco and Draper power substations just south of Oklahoma City. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024, and Transource Oklahoma LLC was chosen as the alternate builder if NextEra has to back out.

The regional transmission organization, which manages the electric grid across 17 central and western U.S. states, supported an independent expert panel’s recommendation to proceed with the project.

The approval came in the same week as SPP’s release of its 2021 annual report, which found that the nonprofit organization provided $2.7 billion in yearly net benefits to members, an 18-to-1 return on investment. The report also summarizes responses to the brutal February 2021 winter storm that devastated Texas and elsewhere, pushing power grids to their limit and beyond.

The report also charted the performance of SPP’s work to modernize the grid, maximize benefits in its wholesale energy markets, and its expansion into the Western Interconnection.

“SPP demonstrated excellence, flexibility and trustworthiness in its real-time response to the February 2021 winter storm, President and CEO Barbara Sugg said in a joint statement with board Chairman Larry Altenbaumer. “In close partnership with our stakeholders and neighbors, we minimized the storm’s reliability impacts. Following the event, we launched an exhaustive analysis of SPP’s and our members’ performance culminating in a set of prioritized recommendations for improvement. We created the Improved Resource Availability Task Force to focus on the most urgent recommendations, and we’re in the process of applying lessons learned to improve our systems and processes.”

The company leadership stressed the importance of balancing its generation fleet, continuing to add renewable power sources to a varied mix. “In partnership with the Midwest Independent System Operator, we completed the Joint Targeted Interconnection Queue study, which identified seven interregional transmission projects that will increase reliability and produce significant economic benefits for our regions.”

SPP’s average power mix for 2021 included 35% of its electricity from coal-fired generation, 34% from wind power, 20% from natural gas, and 5.7% and 3.6%, respectively, from nuclear and hydroelectric power.

The transmission agency also touted its Western Energy Imbalance Service Market, revealing that utilities are joining: Colorado Springs Utilities late this year and Xcel Energy-Colorado, Platte River Power Authority and Black Hills Colorado Electric all in 2023. SPP also said it was “facilitating the new member integration process on behalf of several western utilities interested in joining the RTO.”

Strategic teams have developed policies and transmission planning changes that are expected to provide $3 million to $4 million in yearly savings, and the company has been adjusting well to the strains of the pandemic.

“It has been two years since the pandemic hit: two years unlike any SPP has ever experienced,” Sugg and Altenbaumer wrote. “While these two years were exceptionally challenging, they have prepared us well for the next chapter in SPP’s history. Today, SPP is poised for inevitable change and positioned to help create enhanced benefits for our members and stakeholders. After two years of working remotely in the interest of employees’ health and the integrity of our critical functions, SPP is returning to a hybrid work environment, and the world we’re coming back to is different than the one we left in March 2020.”

To move electricity from where it's produced to where it's needed, SPP relies on a network of 72,387 miles of extra high voltage transmission lines.

SPP's transmission-owning members have approximately $14.6 billion in net transmission investments.

“We’ve learned valuable lessons from managing reliability in historically unprecedented circumstances, collaborating closely while separated by physical distance and building consensus among an increasingly diverse group of stakeholders,” Sugg and Altenbaumer said. “The adaptability we have shown in responding to the unexpected will remain an important part of our ongoing strategy.”

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