A Sunny Outlook On Transmission

on August 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM

Doom and gloom are the default settings for the electricity sector, especially when it comes to challenging transmission projects, but Jay Caspary is having none of it.

“We’re just starting to see the benefits of a robust grid,” Caspary says. As Director of Transmission Development at the Southwest Power Pool, Caspary is tasked with working on strategic and emerging transmission issues at the regional transmission organization, much of which includes working with a host of partners and neighbors.

“I’m having a blast talking to people all over the country,” Caspary told Breaking Energy. SPP, which has a territory stretching across the plains south of the Dakotas, is unique in touching power markets across the continental US.

“We have to work together to get the best lines in the best corridors.”

“If there ever were a national grid, we’d be well-connected for that,” Caspary says, although concerns about reliability and efficiency are likely to slow development of a complete national grid for the short term, he said.

The system is working in its current form, Jay Caspary says, particularly in SPP. The region is emerging as a model for coordinated decision making on transmission across state and operating company lines that many say is reflected in the recent, and controversial, Order 1000 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Order 1000 sets out the rules of the game for paying for transmission infrastructure on a regional basis across the US. For more on the complex rule, and the potential impacts, read: As Plain As Can Be, FERC Order 1000 In Simple Language.

Caspary says that while suggestions the national model is based on SPP is “humbling,” the fact is that the region has managed to plan and permit significant new transmission capacity for the next 3-5 years while projects in other regions stagnate. The region will see investment of roughly $5 billion, much of it in the next five years, for upgraded transmission that should lower consumer costs.

With the challenges to inter-regional planning across the US still pressing for SPP, its partners and other regional transmission organizations, Caspary is hoping to take SPP’s message of cooperation to the industry at large. He will moderate a panel at an industry event planned for August 15-17, 2011 in Hutchison, Kansas, called Expanding and Modernizing the Electrical Grid: Essential Infrastructure for the Heartland’s Clean Energy Future. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and FERC Commissioner Marc Spitzer will also speak at the event.

“We have to think long-term,” Caspary said, in anticipation of the conference. “We have to work together to get the best lines in the best corridors.”