PGE, BPA look to alter transmission project

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Portland General Electric (PGE) and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue a modification to PGE's proposed Cascade Crossing Transmission Project that could benefit the region's grid while reducing environmental impacts.

PGE initially proposed a 215-mile transmission project from Boardman, Ore. to Salem, Ore. Under the modification in the MOU, the line would begin at Boardman and follow the path of the original project, but terminate at a new Pine Grove substation that PGE would build about 18 miles southwest of Maupin.

This would eliminate about 101 miles of the project from the Maupin area to Salem, avoiding most impacts to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, the Mt. Hood and Willamette national forests and private forest and agricultural land in Marion and Linn counties.

PGE also would invest in grid enhancements and/or exchange assets with BPA to increase transmission capacity, and potentially reduce congestion and enhance reliability of the grid. In return, PGE could receive up to 2,600 MW of transmission capacity ownership rights to deliver electricity to customers in Portland and the Willamette Valley. Specific contract terms are still under discussion.

BPA will conduct a formal stakeholder review process prior to entering into any further agreement. PGE and BPA would cooperate to complete necessary environmental reviews.

PGE intends to file amendments to the public permitting processes for the Cascade Crossing project. PGE will focus on permitting the project from Boardman to the Pine Grove substation and will suspend permitting of the previously proposed section west of the Maupin area. The project currently is undergoing review by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council and federal agencies involved in the National Environmental Policy Act process.

PGE is proposing the Cascade Crossing Transmission Project to meet its customers' growing energy needs, enhance the region's grid and support development of wind generation projects east of the Cascades.

It is one of seven projects in the nation that have been identified as a Job-Creating Grid Modernization Pilot Project by the Obama administration and are the focus of the Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission. The RRTT aims to improve the quality and timeliness of electric transmission infrastructure permitting, review and consultation by the federal government.

PGE first began developing Cascade Crossing in response to an order issued by the Oregon Public Utility Commission in 2004 directing PGE to work with BPA and others to develop transmission capacity over the Cascade Mountain Range. The project was included in PGE's most recent Integrated Resource Plan, which was acknowledged by the OPUC in November 2010.

BPA is a nonprofit federal agency that markets renewable hydropower from federal Columbia River dams, operates three-quarters of high-voltage transmission lines in the Northwest and funds one of the largest wildlife protection and restoration programs in the world. BPA and its partners have also saved enough electricity through energy efficiency projects to power four large American cities.

Portland General Electric, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a fully integrated electric utility that serves about 829,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Oregon.

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