What drives the need for transmission system improvement

When American Transmission Co. began operations in 2001, we focused on projects that would address reliability issues resulting from a fragmented system. Since then, we’ve created a smooth‑flowing, dependable electrical highway network to more reliably serve our customers. Our project proposals targeted strategic locations in our service area to develop transmission projects that would solve reliability needs. Network‑driven major projects accounted for significant investment in our 345‑kV system. As we pursue projects to make our network more interconnected and reliable, we also evaluate the life‑cycle maintenance of our existing assets and focus on an asset management strategy that complements our network additions to bring about even greater benefits and cost savings.

Our effective management of transmission assets also complements our planning strategy for electric reliability and economic benefits.

In a collaborative process, our asset management and planning teams work with other functional groups and stakeholders to achieve the best solutions to transmission system needs. Asset management staff monitor the system through maintenance and inspection programs to identify issues related to equipment performance or condition. Equipment deemed inferior and underperforming is discussed internally and with customers to determine if replacement in kind is required and if other reliability needs exist within the geographic area. Needs are evaluated using various options to determine the best means of maintaining reliability and achieving optimal benefits from our investments. These discussions with customers occur at 10-Year Assessment stakeholder meetings and MISO System Planning Meetings.

Common needs that drive system improvements include:

  • Generation Interconnections of new or retiring generation – Changes in both fossil fuel and renewable generation connected to the transmission system impact the location and amount of power flowing as well as system stability.
  • Economics – Greater access to the wholesale energy marketplace provides economic opportunities to utility customers.
  • Enhanced North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability standards – A greater degree of redundancy and analysis is required to assure reliable, resilient operation.
  • Public policy – Renewable energy mandates and pending air quality regulations affect how the transmission system will be built and used.
  • Asset renewal – Replacing equipment approaching the end of its useful life improves system safety and performance.
  • Distribution Interconnections – Changes in how our customers distribute electricity to consumers require new or modified transmission facilities.
  • Load changes – While overall load growth is modest, loads are growing in some locations and decreasing in others, altering power flows on the system.
  • New technologies – Synchronized phasor measurements, demand‑side management and distributed energy resources affect how the grid is planned and operated to maintain reliability.
  • Communications – Improvements in communication technology, such as fiber optics, are incorporated to support an ever‑increasing need to observe and control what is happening on the transmission system in real time.