North America's transmission boom continues to the tune of $163 billion



By Jesse Berst


Roughly $163 billion of transmission projects are scheduled in the U.S. and Canada. This year's $13.5 billion will jump to at least $25.6 billion in 2014, according to TransmissionHub data. The boom continues despite the fact that energy demand is growing at very low rates.


Most of the construction involves 345-kV and 500-kV DC and AC lines, according to Kent Knutson director of Hub Services for Pennwell. Most of the construction is set to occur in the U.S. West, in Canada’s Alberta and British Columbia, and in the Northeast.


For instance, FirstEnergy recently announced it plans to invest an additional $2.8 billion over four years to expand its "Energizing the Future” transmission initiative.


Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy is joining other major power companies who have created a subsidiary to develop transmission projects beyond its own eight-state customer region according to the StarTribune. Stand-alone transmission companies are becoming more common because the federal government has encouraged them as a way to boost competition and reduce costs on big multistate projects. In 2002, American Transmission Co., based in Waukesha, Wis., was created as the nation’s first stand-alone transmission company, and now has $3.3 billion in assets.


Even more transmission may come on line in the next few years, partly to help meet renewable mandates. For example, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) is proposing a massive transmission project designed to deliver renewable energy onto the California grid and to neighboring states. Cal-ISO is reviewing the $1.7 billion proposal. There are roughly a dozen proposed transmission projects that are being developed to deliver renewables to California from nearby states.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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