ME3 POLICY POSITIONS ON TRANSMISSION
FOR MOVING WIND POWER TO MARKET
March 13, 2002 me3.org
Adopted March 13, 2002 by the Board of Directors,
Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Currently, 92 percent of Minnesota's electricity
needs are met through coal-fired or nuclear generation,
with all of the environmental harms created is using
those energy sources. Only 2 percent of our electricity
needs are met with clean, renewable energy. The increased
use of renewable energy will improve the environmental
quality of the region. Minnesota and the Upper Midwest
region enjoy substantial wind resources that allow
us to diversify our electricity portfolio with a much
higher proportion of renewable energy. The Minnesota
legislature has set a statutory goal that 10 percent
of the state's electricity be provided by renewable
energy by 2015, in addition to the 950 megawatts of
renewable energy being developed under the 1994 Prairie
Island compromise. According to the American Wind
Energy Association, Minnesota has 75,000 megawatts
of wind energy potential. The states of North and
South Dakota combined contain another 255,600 megawatts
of wind energy potential. Minnesota consumers will
need additional electricity capacity in the next 10
years, and wind development can supply a substantial
share of those needs.
In order for the Upper Midwest to secure the multiple
environmental and socioeconomic benefits of developing
this nonpolluting wind energy source, transmission
policy must be designed to facilitate moving thousands
of megawatts of wind energy to markets. The existing
transmission system in the Upper Midwest has little
excess capacity for additional large wind farms. Further
development of wind generation in the region will
require the construction of new transmission lines.
We need coordinated long-range planning to get economical,
large-scale wind generation development, and to get
that clean energy to market.
Federal open access rules for transmission raise
concerns about the potential for non-renewable resources
to capture any new transmission capacity built for
wind development in the region. ME3 is exploring provisions
by which capacity on transmission lines built to enable
wind development can be set aside for wind-generated
energy. Building transmission incrementally at an
appropriate scale would make it less likely that transmission
capacity needed to support further wind power development
could be usurped by coal-fired power plants. Minnesota
utilities could help by committing to signing wind
power purchase agreements within a timeframe that
would prevent nonrenewable-generated electricity from
"filling" new transmission lines. Because wind projects
can be developed within 12-18 months, they can respond
far more quickly to energy needs than can nonrenewable
energy projects, which can take 5-7 years to develop.
Through transmission policy, leaders also can work
to eliminate barriers for small-scale wind energy
projects. A major hurdle is the high cost of connecting
small wind projects to the transmission grid. For
many landowners, this expense is prohibitive. One
mechanism to facilitate access for local generation
projects would be a requirement that lower voltage
"underbuild" line be strung on the same poles used
for high voltage transmission (i.e. a 34.5 kV network
attached underneath a higher voltage 115/161 kW transmission
line). The underbuild connection would reduce small
project interconnection costs to more modest levels,
and thus expedite small wind development. In addition,
such connections would create less environmental impact.
However, unless small wind projects serve only local
loads, high-voltage transmission lines also will be
Full environmental review of any new transmission
project must occur prior to issuance of a Certificate
of Need by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission,
or Site Certificate by the Minnesota Environmental
Quality Board. Environmental review must be grounded
in environmental and public health protections; economic
considerations must include environmental costs and
the potential for sustainable local economic development.
ME3's Policy Positions on New Electricity Transmission
for Moving Wind Power to Market
- As its highest priority, ME3 supports investments
in energy efficiency to minimize the need for new
electricity generation and transmission.
- ME3 supports the responsible development of new
transmission capacity needed to bring thousands
of megawatts of wind power from the rural Upper
Midwest to markets.
- ME3 supports maximizing the use of existing transmission
lines and corridors prior to opening new transmission
- ME3 supports open transmission access for renewable
energy market participants on terms that do not
discriminate against variable resources, such as
wind power, or against small-scale producers.
- ME3 supports transmission policies that facilitate
locally owned, small-scale wind development that
benefits farmers and local communities.
- ME3 supports the development of low-voltage transmission
to connect small-scale wind projects to the high-voltage
- ME3 supports transmission policies that assure
that transmission investments supported by affected
communities in order to allow wind power development
are not filled instead by non-renewable generation.
- ME3 supports the active participation of local
landowners, tribes, and communities throughout the
transmission planning, siting, and routing processes.
- ME3 supports appropriate compensation for all
property owners affected by transmission projects.
- ME3 supports the fair allocation of transmission
costs in proportion to the benefits that transmission
provides, including enhancing system reliability,
serving native load, and providing market opportunities.