SWEPCO drops proposed 345 kV transmission project

SPP said the project was canceled because electricity needs were lower than previously forecast

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Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) withdrew its pending application for state regulatory approval to construct a $116 million 345 kV electric transmission project in Northwest Arkansas. The withdrawal is the result of notification by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) that the proposed project is no longer needed.

SPP is the regional transmission organization (RTO) mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and competitive wholesale prices of electricity in parts of eight states, including Arkansas.

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In its notification letter SPP said it based its determination primarily on updated forecasts that show lower electric demand than prior forecasts in an area identified as having the highest impact on the need for the project. In addition the cancellation of several large, long-term transmission service reservations further reduces reliability needs in the area. SPP has initiated the process to withdraw the Notification to Construct (NTC), which was the basis for SWEPCO’s application to the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

As part of its long-term transmission planning process, SPP issued a NTC in February 2008 that directed SWEPCO to build multiple transmission projects across the region over an eight-year period to meet projected reliability needs. The last of those was a new 345 kV transmission line approximately 60 miles long from western Benton County to a new substation in Carroll County, Arkansas. The project was scheduled to be in service in June 2016.

In April 2013, SWEPCO filed an application with the APSC for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) to construct the facilities. On Jan. 17, 2014, an administrative law judge for the APSC issued Order No. 32 granting a CECPN for the 345 kV transmission project.

In response to requests for rehearing of the application made in March 2014, the APSC granted a rehearing, vacated the prior CECPN and indicated additional evidence on the need for the facilities and proposed transmission line routing was necessary for a final decision by the full Commission. SPP agreed to conduct a re-evaluation. The SPP study yielded different results than the previous analyses due to reduction in forecasted load and a reduction in long-term transmission service transactions by SPP’s transmission customers since the time of the last evaluation.

As a result, on Dec. 29, 2014, SPP notified SWEPCO that its study results now indicate that the proposed 345 kV transmission line is not required to maintain reliability in the northern Arkansas and southern Missouri area. SPP said it is initiating the process to withdraw the NTC, which is expected to be finalized in January 2015.

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