By Amanda Durish Cook
Michigan regulators are stepping into a dispute over how to classify a contested interconnection project included in MISO’s 2018 Transmission Expansion Plan (MTEP).
In a FERC complaint filed last month against MISO and Michigan Electric Transmission Co. (METC), Consumers Energy argued METC’s $21-million, 138-kV Morenci line near the Michigan-Ohio border has more in common with a distribution project than a transmission project and should be classified as such (EL19-59).
Consumers says the seven-factor test laid out in FERC Order 888 supports its contention because the line would be radial in nature. The company asked FERC to determine MISO “cannot approve or mandate the construction of a local electric distribution facility as part of its annual transmission planning process.”
MISO included the Morenci project in its 2018 Transmission Expansion plan over Consumers’ objection, saying it had no authority to address the complaint and the matter should be decided between FERC and the transmission owner. (See MISO Board OKs Full MTEP 18 over Stakeholder Complaints.)
But Consumers said MISO’s view that “it is irrelevant whether its transmission expansion plans might include local distribution projects … is unacceptable to Consumers Energy, and it should be unacceptable to FERC, because it is a form of agnosticism with very real consequences.” MISO should vet the classification of its transmission projects — especially contested ones, the company said, asking FERC to remind the RTO of its “inherent obligation” to classify transmission projects.
Consumers argued MISO didn’t attempt the seven-factor transmission test when it should have, but MISO countered it followed both its Tariff and Transmission Owners Agreement, which stipulate the seven-factor transmission test be performed by “appropriate regulatory authorities.” The RTO asked FERC to dismiss the complaint in a May 3 response.
Last week, the Michigan Public Service Commission intervened to claim jurisdictional authority, opening its own case to apply the seven-factor test and scheduling a prehearing conference for June 4 (U-20497). METC, along with affected generator Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative and co-op member Midwest Energy and Communications, have requested FERC delay a decision on the complaint until the Michigan PSC rules in the dispute.
The PSC has also suggested FERC order a modification to the MTEP process to allow state entities with jurisdiction to apply the seven-factor test before a project makes it to the MTEP list.
However, Wolverine Power has argued it has a “time-sensitive need” for a transmission upgrade to deliver wholesale power and said the case is not the “appropriate proceeding to revise the MISO Tariff or to expand the scope of MISO authority to include facility classifications.”
Consumers has said it will suffer “concrete harm” if the line is built, saying it will have to pay for the line in METC’s transmission rates and be prevented from constructing an alternative distribution project to serve Midwest Energy’s anticipated load growth.
Consumers also contends a FERC determination that the line is distribution should be “uncontroversial.” “Federal law does not give MISO the power to approve or compel construction of local distribution facilities, or to regulate such facilities directly,” the company said.