Monday, January 24, 2011

Colorado PUC Issues Decision Adopting Rules Governing Electric Transmission Facilities Planning in Colorado

In follow-up to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (the "Commission") on July 28, 2010; the Commission, on January 21, 2011, issued an Order adopting rules for in-state transmission planning. While the Order emphasizes that the transmission planning process in the state has been changed by recent Colorado legislative activity, the rules do not clearly emphasize the need to plan for transmission to support development of Colorado's resources. In this way, the rules may not necessarily align with a number of recommendations in the STAR report and the CAP report as discussed in previous postings.

Generally, the Order encompasses six concepts in describing the rules as adopted:

  1. No later than February 1, 2012, and every even year thereafter, each of the three jurisdictional utilities in the state shall file a ten-year transmission plan reflecting its own needs and is required to reflect coordination of projects with all transmission providers in Colorado. The biennial filing requirement is provided in order to better coordinate transmission and generation planning.
  2. To support the coordination as set forth in paragraph 1, the Commission believes that non-jurisdictional providers will continue to participate before the Colorado Coordinated Planning Group (CCPG). The rules do not require the CCPG or non-jurisdictional entities to file plans with the Commission.
  3. Each transmission plan is required to demonstrate compliance with the standards as set forth in §§3627(b) – (d). In particular, §3627(d) requires filing of all economic studies performed pursuant to FERC Order 890 since the last biennial filing. In each plan, utilities are generally required to demonstrate why certain projects are proposed, the extent of coordination with other transmission providers, and that stakeholder outreach was undertaken.
  4. The rules mandate that jurisdictional utilities provide an opportunity for meaningful stakeholder participation, including government participation, in the process. §3627(g). The Order notes, however, that neither the requirements for transmission planning nor the requirement to allow for stakeholder input is intended to take the place of the siting approval process.
  5. Upon filing of the plans of the three jurisdictional utilities, the Commission will consolidate the plans into one. The Commission, in its discretion, will then schedule workshops and/or hearings and solicit public comments on the plans and the process used to formulate the plans in order to issue a written decision regarding compliance with the rules and adequacy of the plans.
  6. The rules require jurisdictional utilities to reference the most recently filed ten-year transmission plan in any subsequent CPCN application for individual projects contained in that plan.

The Commission anticipates informal workshops in 2011 to clarify the expectations for the first filing in 2012.

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