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Summit Reflects Collaborative Spirit on Transmission in West

Oct 8, 2007 - Wind Energy Weekly

In an event underscoring the growing understanding of transmission’s importance, Governors Dave Freudenthal (D-Wyo.) and Bill Ritter (D-Colo.) headlined a regional summit in Fort Collins, Colo., aimed at increasing access to the Western electric grid for wind and other renewable energy sources.

The event, sponsored by the Western Governors’ Association, National Wind Coordinating Collaborative, and Geothermal Energy Association, brought together not only governors but the necessary array of stakeholders needed to move initiatives forward. For example, one panel, which was moderated by the two governors and focused on public policies and business strategies to enhance energy and climate security, included Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Utilities President Pat Vincent of Public Service Company of New Mexico, Utilities Group President Paul Bonavia of Xcel Energy, and Commissioner Marsha Smith of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

The group highlighted the need for more transmission, supportive state and federal policies, market structures that work to support renewables, and regulators cooperating across state lines. “We got the expressions of support we wanted from political, corporate, and regulatory leaders, and a strong indication from the CEO of the California Independent System Operator [Yakout Mansour] that California will need renewable energy from the rest of the West,” said AWEA Western Regional Representative Ron Lehr.

“One of the most exciting things to come out of the summit is simply the fact that Colorado is now actively engaged in the regional planning process,” said Interwest Energy Alliance Executive Director Craig Cox. Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico, noted Cox, all have infrastructure authorities in place working on transmission (Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, and Colorado Clean Energy Development Authority). “This augurs well for wind export policies, for one,” said Cox, speaking to Wind Energy Weekly. He added that Lehr facilitated introductions among the leaders of the three infrastructure authorities at the conference, raising their awareness of the tremendous export potential of these three states.

Exemplifying the need for interstate cooperation and sound export policies, one proposed transmission line, the High Plains Express project, would link wind resources in Wyoming with load centers in Arizona and other parts of the rapidly growing desert Southwest, passing through eastern Colorado and New Mexico along the way. “That project offers tremendous opportunities for wind, if done right,” said Cox.

Among other summit highlights, the program also covered current integration study efforts and results and took a look at current Western transmission plans. TOP