SWEPCO pulls plug on transmission line project

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Reevaluation by Southwest Power Pool negates project's necessity

The Southwest Electric Power Company has withdrawn a pending application with the Arkansas Public Service Commission to build a 345 kV transmission line in northwest Arkansas.

SWEPCO applied to the commission for the project for the first time in April 2013. Company officials said the Southwest Power Pool, a regional transmission organization, had determined that upgrades were needed to improve the long-term reliability for the northwest Arkansas area, as well as to help address system overloads. SPP advised SWEPCO to build the line, which aimed to strengthen the transmission grid in the area.

After months of opposition and protests from landowners and Save the Ozarks, a Eureka Springs, Ark.-based group whose goal is nature preservation, APSC Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin ruled that the line could be built on Route 109, which would have gone 8.5 miles into Barry County and 17 miles into McDonald County.

Instead, SWEPCO asked for a rehearing to use a route only in Arkansas. When granted by the APSC, the rehearing vacated the previous approval for the route that would lead into Missouri.

Now, the organization is pulling the plug on the project entirely, as a reevaluation by the SPP 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.

In its notification letter, the SPP said it based its determination primarily on updated forecasts that show significantly 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, which was the basis for SWEPCO's application to the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

"As a transmission-owning member of SPP, SWEPCO's role is to obtain regulatory approval and to construct electric transmission facilities as directed by SPP," said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. "SPP determines the need for projects based on studies containing future load growth and other transmission system usage projections. Based on SPP's new findings, we are notifying landowners, community leaders and elected officials that we have withdrawn our application to the APSC for authority to construct the Shippe Road to Kings River transmission project."

SPP expects the withdrawal of the notification to construct to be finalized in January 2015.

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