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Transmission a big issue for power companies, thanks to growth in renewable energy

Julie Fedorchak
ND PSC
/

One of the biggest issues facing the electric industry is transmission.

What’s driving the need is the growth in renewable energy.

"Like John Baer, who is the CEO of MISO says, if you like renewables, you better love transmission," said North Dakota Public Service Commission chairman Julie Fedorchak, in an interview.

"MISO" stands for "Midwest Independent System Operator" — which is a regional transmission authority.

Fedorchak said she knows of three major efforts in our area that are focusing on planning for more transmission. One is the new “Grid North” partnership, which evolved after the high voltage Cap X 2020 project was completed. A second is headed by “MISO,” the Midwest Independent System Operator, a regional transmission authority. And she says XCEL Energy is working on its own plans.

"The line to get on the (power) grid is pretty full," Fedorchak said. "That's especially true in this MISO-north zone that North Dakota is in."

Fedorchak said North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have the greatest wind resource.

"That's one of the challenges all of these entities have to address," Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak said the reason is, renewables are not "dispatchable," meaning you have to accept them whenever and wherever they're producing.

"So if they aren't producing in one region, you have to get it from where it is producing to the grid," Fedorchak said. "And that requires a lot of redundant transmission, built to accommodate transferring power from where it is produced to where it's needed."

Fedorchak said she expects this will be a big issue for some time.