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Utility starts on loop that will cost up to $2 billion. What will remain for the new transmission authority to do?

 

Xcel Energy has received the official decision from state regulators that will allow it to start building 650 miles transmission in eastern Colorado that could top out at a cost of $2 billion.

Public Utilities Commission members in February had agreed to authorize the transmission additions, called Colorado’s Power Pathway project. See: On the brink of yes in Colorado

The five segments approved by PUC commissioners will create a new 650-mile loop of high-voltage transmission lines connecting new renewable energy on the eastern plains to Xcel’s customers along the Front Range. See map

PUC commissioners also granted conditional approval of a 90-mile extension in southeastern Colorado from the May Valley substation near Lamar to the Springfield area, which has some of the steadiest and strongest winds in Colorado.

This new transmission will be needed for Xcel to develop renewable resources as it closes coal plants in Hayden and Pueblo and gears up to provide more electricity to displace fossil fuels in transportation and buildings. It has committed to reduce carbon emissions 85% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission will also need to build new transmission as it closes its coal plants in Craig. It filed an application this year for two 230-kV transmission lines that would cover a combined distance of 130 miles on Colorado’s eastern plains.

What role will there be for the Colorado Electric Transmission Authority created by a 2021 law? The new body has been dubbed the “transmission developer of last resort.” The law sponsored by a bipartisan slate of both urban and rural legislators allows CETA to select a transmission operator to finance, plan, acquire, maintain, and operate eligible electric transmission and interconnected storage facilities.

As explained in a March story by Big Pivots, this authority may play a role in providing transmission for renewable resources such as the San Luis Valley.

Nine individuals were appointed to the board. The new authority will soon have its own website and members will meet for the first time on Friday, July 8, at 9 a.m. The Colorado Energy Office will have a notice of the meeting, although the new agency is formally independent.

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