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PSC chair: Investments in electric transmission will benefit North Dakota

The operator of the power grid serving 15 states and Manitoba has announced it has okayed $10 billion in investments in electrical transmission.

The chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission called that announcement good news for North Dakota.

"There's a lot of energy that we produce in this state that can't get out, both renewable and conventional," said Julie Fedorchak.

But Fedorchak does take issue with some comments made by a member of the Clean Grid Alliance, to the Prairie News Service. Natalie McIntire said
building more capacity for a variety of clean-energy resources paves the way for a more reliable grid.

"We're trying to meet the needs of utilities as they're planning for shifting towards clean energy resources -- clean energy resources that both benefit the environment but also have low cost to consumers," McIntire told PNS.

Fedorchak disagreed.

"There's no way around the fact that customers are going to pay double for the generation," Fedorchak said. "At least in the interim."

Fedorchak said that will depend on how long it takes to develop batteries that are commercial-scale, and economic. She also said reliability remains a question mark.

"Just having more non-traditional resources, that can't be turned up-and-down to follow the load, doesn't create a more reliable grid," Fedorchak said. "It creates one that is more volatile."

Fedorchak said regulators and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator — or "MISO" — have to be honest with the public, as the grid goes through its transition. She said that includes cost, and what some of the inconveniences are going to be.

"We're already seeing those," Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak said it will also take several years for MISO and its member companies to have the new transmission in place.

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