By Yvonne Cappel-Vickery, AAE Clean Energy Grid Organizer
The Long Range Transmission Plan is a long-range plan to develop and expand transmission capacity throughout the service footprint, which includes 15 states (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin). The transmission grid is essential to powering our lives - as we saw in New Orleans when hurricane Ida damaged all eight transmission lines transporting power into the city. Transmission lines carry virtually all the energy we rely on; therefore, transmission is a crucial part of keeping our power grid operational and reliable.
Tranche 1 projects will help construct enough renewable energy to power 12 million homes and create 213,000 jobs over 11 north midwestern states in the coming decades. This historical moment is undoubtedly a moment to celebrate. But while this is an exciting time, we must also consider the regions not part of Tranche 1, most notably MISO South states.
As Entergy and other Louisiana ratepayers have been grappling with soaring electricity bills, we must consider all avenues to ensure affordable power for ratepayers. A key benefit of MISO membership is that it offers access to a pool of power-generating resources across its 15-state footprint. In Entergy's territory alone, which covers parts of Louisiana, Southeast Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi, MISO membership has saved ratepayers more than $1.3 billion. Unfortunately, since the transmission system is not well connected across MISO South and even more disconnected from MISO neighbors in the north, Louisiana is being left behind.
Louisiana ratepayers could access more affordable energy by accessing more power on the MISO power market which can be achieved by expanding transmission and examining bottleneck constraints. Renewable energy, like solar and wind energy, is now often cheaper than fossil fuel-generated power. Accessing such renewable energy will require a prepared transmission system to meet modern-day demands.
Image of MISO footprint with 4 regions East, West, Central and South. As can be seen there is a small strip connecting MISO South to MISO Central and other regions. Expanded transmission can help address bottleneck constraints.
Long Range Transmission Planning has not happened in decades, and the South is primed and ready to expand transmission. Current estimates found that when Tranche 3 and 4 projects are completed (Tranches that will address transmission in MISO South and North-South constraints), these projects will reliably bring on enough renewable energy to power over 2,000,000 homes annually. These projects have been estimated to bring over 44,000 jobs to the MISO South region. Tranche 1 projects are far from us in Louisiana; however, they signal the first steps for Long Range Transmission Planning to come to MISO South states (LA, MS, AK, and SE Texas). Louisiana has long been a fossil-fuel energy leader; however, if expanded transmission capacity can occur in Louisiana, our state can become a clean energy leader. The Gulf of Mexico will likely become home to some of the most significant wind projects in the nation, and Louisiana could be a part of the offshore wind boom. But the offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico can not occur without transmission capacity.
Long Range Transmission Planning for Louisiana and other southern states in MISO will not even begin until 2023. The approval of Tranche 1 is the first step in expanding transmission capacity and preparing the power grid for increasingly extreme weather, increasing renewable energy development, providing increased power market options, and increasing grid reliability. We applaud the approval of the MISO Long Range Transmission Plan Tranche 1; however, we will continue to push for transmission planning in MISO South. Louisiana must engage with transmission planning to ensure that the clean energy transition can occur. Watch this space, as The Alliance will provide updates and opportunities to engage with MISO and transmission planning.