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Kansas Commission Grants NextEra Public Utility Status to Build a 94-Mile Wolf Creek to Blackberry Transmission Line

Sept. 6, 2022
The proposed line runs through five counties in Kansas; Coffey, Anderson, Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford.

In a special business meeting last week, the Kansas Corporation Commission granted a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to NextEra Energy Transmission Southwest, LLC, enabling the company to do business as a transmission only public utility in the state. The company filed an application for the certificate in February in order to construct a 94-mile, 345 kV transmission line from Wolf Creek to the Blackberry Substation, less than one mile over the state line in Southwest Missouri. The proposed line runs through five counties in Kansas: Coffey, Anderson, Allen, Bourbon and Crawford. The final route has not yet been approved by the Commission.

The Wolf Creek to Blackberry project was identified by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) as a necessary economic project to increase the transmission capability and relieve congestion from western Kansas east to SPP load centers. SPP is a regional transmission organization (RTO) mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and competitive wholesale prices on behalf of its members. SPP serves 17 states, including Kansas.

 In issuing the order, Commissioners agreed the project provides benefits for Kansans: “Based on the testimony received, the Commission finds that the transmission project will have a beneficial effect on customers by lowering overall energy costs, removing inefficiency, relieving transmission congestion and improving the reliability of the transmission system.”

Justin Grady, chief of revenue requirements, cost of service and finance, KCC, testified that Kansas customers could see an increase of US$ 0.04 to US$ 0.05 per month to cover the cost of the line beginning in 2025, but when the benefits of the project are considered, they should see a reduction of US$ 4 to US$ 7 for every dollar spent on the line over its 40 year operating life.

Grady also addressed misconceptions about the financing and purpose of the transmission line. He said the cost of the line will be allocated equally across the entire 14 state SPP region based on transmission customer load share. Kansas is paying 16.5% of the cost.

As for concerns that the line will be shipping nuclear or wind power out of Kansas to states outside of the SPP footprint, Grady said there is no evidence to support that.

While granting the certificate, the Commission imposed additional requirements and conditions on NextEra designed to protect ratepayers and to explore ways to minimize the impact of landowners along the proposed route. One of the conditions calls for NextEra to evaluate the feasibility of double circuiting the line with an existing 25-mile Evergy 161 kV transmission line and report back before a line siting application can be filed with the Commission. A double circuit line has two independent circuits on the same structure eliminating the need for an additional easement and reduces structure costs.

“The public interest of Kansans, especially including the landowners that would be affected along this portion of the preliminary route of the line, will not be served if this issue is not comprehensively reviewed by all parties before NEET Southwest files its line siting request with the Commission. To reiterate, failure to earnestly and completely review the double circuit option may result in a proposed route that the Commission cannot approve as reasonable, which the Commission wishes to avoid.”

The order can be viewed here.

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