The Bonneville Power Administration on July 13 said that it is moving forward with more than $2 billion in multiple transmission substation and line projects necessary to reinforce the grid.
The projects “are intended to increase capacity and accommodate regional growth, as well as an abundance of new, clean energy resources,” BPA said.
The projects must undergo environmental review and, if constructed, would support thousands of megawatts of renewable energy added to the power grid and help Oregon and Washington customers meet 2030 clean energy targets.
“This move demonstrates a strong commitment to our customers and advances their efforts to meet state clean energy mandates,” said John Hairston, BPA administrator and CEO. “We are setting the stage for an infrastructure decade that should significantly advance our efforts to respond to transmission interconnection and service requests and generate sufficient revenue to allow us to keep rates low.”
Six of the projects would reinforce existing major BPA transmission lines that run from east to west, allowing the flow of energy from the east side of the region to load centers such as the Puget Sound area and Portland. These projects, combined with a handful of smaller projects near Seattle and Portland, would reinforce transmission lines that deliver electricity to BPA customers who serve retail loads in those areas.
“I am proud of Bonneville Power Administration’s forward-leaning action plan to accelerate the development of new transmission in the Pacific Northwest,” said David Crane, Department of Energy under secretary for infrastructure. “This multi-project transmission upgrade program will put Bonneville, its customers across the Northwest and utility partners at the forefront of the nation’s transition to clean energy while reinforcing its historic mission of safe, affordable and resilient energy for all.”
Early estimates indicate the projects would collectively cost approximately $1.35 billion with expected energization between 2025 and 2032. If all are energized, they would provide at least 6,000 MW of additional capacity on BPA’s transmission network.
In addition, BPA is working on four projects in Central Oregon where utilities are experiencing significant growth and are attracting large commercial customers. Projects consist of one new transmission line and three substations. They are estimated to cost $839 million and could accommodate new service for incoming large customers and regional load growth while maintaining high reliability.
These projects are a major part of BPA’s Evolving Grid effort that is designed to take a long view of customer and regional transmission needs over the next two decades.
The list of potential projects is likely to expand when BPA finalizes a 2023 Cluster Study.
Moody's Upgrades BPA’s Credit Rating
In other recent BPA news, Moody's has upgraded BPA’s credit rating from Aa2 to Aa1 with a stable outlook, BPA reported in late June.
Aa1 is the second highest rating issued by Moody's. This is BPA's first upgrade since 2009 when Fitch and S&P issued upgrades.
Moody's cited BPA's recent infusion of $10 billion of additional borrowing authority, an updated financial plan that includes reducing leverage over time, and competitive rates under long-term contracts as the principal justifications for the upgrade.
Moody's also referenced BPA's strongly positioned and expansive network of hydropower and transmission assets and the carbon-free nature of its resources as support for the move.
“This reaffirms that BPA's financial reserves and leverage policies make us stronger. They position us well to continue providing low-cost, clean energy and to make necessary transmission service and expansion investments that will help customers greening their power supplies," said BPA Chief Financial Officer Marcus Harris. “A financially strong BPA is good for the region's economy and clean energy future."