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New transmission line could give Michigan better access to cheaper, more reliable, cleaner electricity from the grid

ITC worker on transmission line
ITC worker on transmission line

MISO is proposing seven new transmission line projects in its region, to boost reliability and allow more renewable energy to get onto the grid. Experts say Michigan will likely benefit the most of all from the additions.

MISO is the organization responsible for operating the power grid across 15 U.S. states, including Michigan, and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

One of the transmission line projects will be in Michigan. The state's connections to the regional grid have always been limited by the fact that it is two peninsulas, surrounded by Great Lakes. So getting one of the proposed lines is a big deal.

Dan Scripps is Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission.  He said the state will be able to import more energy at times of peak demand, and risks of outages will be reduced.

"We get the largest increase in import capacity of any of the MISO zones under this plan," said Scripps. "The risk of grid scale outages like we saw in Texas and we see in California.....we never want to see that happen in Michigan. And I think the plan MISO is putting forward helps lower the likelihood that we'd ever be in that position."

15 states and one province (Manitoba) are in the MISO-managed electric grid
15 states and one province (Manitoba) are in the MISO-managed electric grid

Scripps says the new transmission line will increase rates for Michigan electricity customers, but the additional amount won't be large. He said transmission charges currently are only about 4% of electric utility bills. Another benefit to the new transmission line is having more access to lower cost electricity in other states, he said.

MISO estimates that states in the MISO Region will see $37 billion in financial benefits over 20 years from the $10.4 billion in investment in the new lines.

The new plan will also help reduce emissions in the MISO region, said Beth Soholt, Executive Director of Clean Grid Alliance. The alliance is a Midwest-based renewable energy advocacy organization.

New transmission lines (in red) proposed for northern states in the MISO region
New transmission lines (in red) proposed for northern states in the MISO region

"This is the first time MISO included a decarbonization benefit (in its planning)," Soholt said. "The new tranche of transmission lines is planned to enable about 53,000 MW of new renewable sources for electricity. In Michigan, that's 8,300 MW of renewables, between wind, solar, and storage. This is the large backbone that we need for the Midwest to get started on making sure we can decarbonize, and deliver clean electricity when and where it's needed."

The alliance estimates the 8,300 MW of new renewably-sourced electricity expected in the state of Michigan is enough to power 1.8 million homes, and create more than 34,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Soholt said long-range planning by the Biden administration envisions projects that could connect one large regional grid to another. But she says in the mid-term, her group would like to see electricity resources in the southern states in the MISO grid better connected to those in the north.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.