Yes, New Transmission Infrastructure IS Needed

The most recent consultant hired by the City, Siemens, has once again affirmed what has been reported on this blog over the last few years – new investment in our transmission and distribution infrastructure is overdue. Substations are overloaded, there are feeder lines that have no adequate back-up at times of system peak, and certain neighborhoods, as well as our wastewater processing facilities, lack back-up in the event of an outage (See e.g., pp. 17-20, 53-54, 56, 60, 77, 130, 107, 114-120, 130, 154, 175-176, 183, 186, 190).

Water & Light told us that new investment was needed back in 2013 when it first proposed the new transmission line known as Option A and the Mill Creek substation. But after that line was approved by voters, bonds issued and work begun, the City Council “paused” that work, without an alternate plan in place. In the almost five years since that pause was put in place, the risks of service interruptions and outages has steadily increased. During that same period, we have spent over $500,000 in consulting fees* to confirm what Water &  Light told us, and what politicians denied. New investment is now urgently needed.

The Siemens plan, which was prepared for the council-appointed Integrated Electric Resource Master Plan Task Force, confirms the urgent need for new investment. And it reviews numerous options for that investment — new lines, new transformers, battery storage, etc. However, it avoids any straightforward comparison with the paused option. Despite the lack of that comparison, it does appear that we will pay more for these options than we would have paid had we completed the paused line.

How much more will we pay? We may never know. That question simply wasn’t asked by the Integrated Electric Resource Master Plan Task Force that commissioned the report. And what might be the best way to engineer our system for safety and reliability, and provide the highest value to those of us who pay for service? The Task Force didn’t ask that either.

If you agree that politicians should be accountable, and that the costs of their decisions should be clearly documented for the public, you can provide feedback to the Task Force at: online comment form.

*(Quanta – $97,500, Burns & McDonnell – $95,000, and Siemens $358,000).