|  Sep 04, 2018

Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line is a Necessary Improvement and will Enable Renewable Energy

Kelley WelfKelley Welf, Communications Director
Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line is a Necessary Improvement and will Enable Renewable Energy
Kelley WelfKelley Welf, Communications Director

Let’s face it.  There’s nothing sexy about investing in “under-the-hood” or “down-in-the-basement” repairs and maintenance. Yet, such investments are necessary for the successful operation of your home or car. Similarly, it’s necessary to invest in our “behind the light switch” infrastructure in order to maintain the integrity of our electric system and ensure the reliable delivery of the lowest-cost energy sources to our citizens.  MISO, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, has determined that the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line is a necessary improvement to the Midwest grid that will facilitate reliability, a robust energy market and help deliver clean energy to homes and businesses.

Wind energy is cost competitive right now.  The cost of wind is down 67 percent over the last seven years, and some of the best wind resources in America are available here in the Midwest. While Wisconsin has less installed wind capacity compared to many of its neighbors, more wind and solar resources are being developed in Wisconsin. And Wisconsin residents benefit from an efficient electric grid with robust amounts of carbon free renewables that will lower wholesale electricity prices.

Most of America’s transmission lines are more than 50 years old, and more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines across the country are at full capacity.  As a result, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our electric infrastructure a D+ on their American Infrastructure Report Card last year.  Balancing “needs” with “wants” can present a difficult struggle.  In this case, however, we can have both. If we spend money on upgrading our transmission systems we can simultaneously enable the delivery of more clean, low-cost renewable energy – something that 83 percent of Americans believe is a top or important priority for the country’s energy policies.

The Cardinal Hickory Creek Transmission line will help facilitate the Midwest’s clean energy transition while offering reliability and energy security. Over 1,700 megawatts of wind energy being developed in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa are depending on this transmission line to bring clean, low-cost, home-grown energy to the electric grid.  

The Midcontinent Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) approved 17 high-voltage transmission lines in December 2011 that would improve the reliability and flexibility of the electric grid in nine Midwestern states. The Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line is the last of these Multi-Value Projects to move through the approval process. Connecting renewable energy in Iowa and Wisconsin with the Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line will improve reliability and increase the capability to deliver low-cost wind resources; relieve congestion, which will also help reduce energy costs; and provide other economic benefits. This line also saves approximately $151 million by eliminating the need to upgrade 13 other lower-voltage transmission projects.  MISO also determined that no other transmission alternative will be as cost-effective as this project in connecting Northwestern Iowa with Southeastern and south central Wisconsin, and non-transmission alternatives are not feasible.

Fortunately, transmission costs represent a small percentage of your monthly utility bill.  Phillip Moeller, Executive Vice President of the Edison Electric Institute and former FERC Commissioner said that on average, only about 11 percent of the total amount of a customer’s electric bill is related to transmission costs.

Modern life is moving toward electrification.  Electricity doesn’t just heat our homes and cook our food anymore.  It is powering our homes, cars, and all the nifty gadgets that we just can’t live without and improves the quality of our lives in ways we never could have imagined even a decade ago.  At the same time, the public is demanding that our electricity generation sources become cleaner; and cheaper, too.  Wind energy is able to respond to this call.  And, the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line will deliver.

by Kelley WelfKelley Welf
Communications Director

Kelley Welf is the communications director for Clean Grid Alliance. She writes about transmission, MISO, and the benefits of renewable energy across the Midwest. Follow CGA on Twitter @CGA_Midwest, Facebook @cleangridalliance and LinkedIn @clean-grid-alliance.