Electricity Markets

Action seen on East Coast, West Coast underwater power lines

An underwater transmission line project in New York took a major step forward and a deal was struck for the sale of a key transmission cable in San Francisco Bay.

On the East Coast, the developer of the 1,000-megawatt Empire State Connector said Monday an undisclosed potential anchor customer signed a letter of interest that allows a solicitation for capacity on the transmission line to move to a second stage.

The roughly $1.5 billion transmission project, designed to carry renewable energy, is set to run about 260 miles from near Utica, New York, to New York City.

Most of the project's high-voltage direct current cables would be laid in the Erie Canal and Hudson River and underground, according to the project developer, which is owned by OneGrid, a Toronto-based transmission company.

The project supports New York’s Clean Energy Standard, which requires that half the state’s power comes from renewables by 2030. The renewables will displace fossil-fueled power plants that currently serve New York City, according to OneGrid.

Currently, there are transmission constraints that limit the ability to deliver energy from upstate New York to the New York City area.

In the solicitation’s next step, renewable energy suppliers that want to sell power over the line have until Dec. 21 to update their previously submitted bids or submit new ones.

Utilities and others have the same deadline to submit non-binding letters of interest indicating they want to buy the remaining capacity on the line.

OneGrid said it intends to finalize binding agreements in the first half next year.

The project has completed a New York Independent System Operator interconnection feasibility study. OneGrid expects to file a permit application for the project with the New York Public Service Commission by the end of next year. The company intends to start operating the transmission line in 2023.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June 2016 approved OneGrid’s plan to sell capacity on the line at negotiated rates.

London Economics International is managing the solicitation process. More information is available at www.ESCsolicitation.com.

Parties enter deal to buy transmission cable for $1 billion

On the West Coast, NextEra Energy Transmission has reached an agreement with SteelRiver Infrastructure Fund North America and its partners to acquire the 400-MW Trans Bay Cable for about $1 billion, including the assumption of debt.

The high-voltage direct current Trans Bay Cable runs 53 miles under water between Pittsburg, California, and San Francisco. The cable system supplies about 40 percent of the daily peak load in San Francisco and its surrounding areas. The cable system started operating in November 2010.

The cable system has a FERC-approved annual revenue requirement of $134 million. The deal is in line with NextEra’s strategy of adding regulated assets to its portfolio, according to Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of the Juno Beach, Florida-based utility company.

The deal must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission and FERC, as well as expiration or termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.

NextEra expects the transaction to close next year.