Energy In-depth: SWEPCO Cancels NW Arkansas Transmission Project

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 130 views 

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Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) served notice that it will no longer pursue a $116 million, 345 kilovolt (kV) electric transmission project in Northwest Arkansas due to a lack of need.

Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a regional transmission operator, conducted a study that shows the proposed project is not needed due to updated forecasts indicating lower electric demand in the region than previously projected.

“As a transmission owning member of SPP, SWEPCO’s role is to obtain regulatory approval and to construct electric transmission facilities as directed by SPP. SPP determines the need for projects based on studies containing future load growth and other transmission system usage projections,” said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer.

“Based on SPP’s new findings, we are notifying landowners, community leaders and elected officials that we have withdrawn our application to the APSC for authority to construct the Shipe Road to Kings River transmission project,” she said.

The transmission project was expected to stretch across 60 miles from western Benton County to a new substation in Carroll County, Arkansas. The project was scheduled to be in service in June 2016.

Public pressure played a role in a rehearing request at the PSC. Earlier this year, the state’s utility regulatory requested that SPP conduct a new study on the need for the transmission project after nearly 6,000 public comments were received.

The SPP study yielded different results than previous analyses due to a reduction in forecasted load and a reduction in long-term transmission service transactions by SPP’s transmission customers since the time of the last evaluation in 2008.

SWEPCO serves more than 524,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana, northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle.

Lori Burrows has been named as vice president and general counsel for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. She replaces Bob Lyford, who recently retired after more than 30 years with the cooperative.

Burrows joined AECC as senior staff attorney in 2012. She has more than 10 years of public utility legal and regulatory experience at the state, regional and federal levels. Prior to joining AECC/AECI, she served as commission legal advisor for the Arkansas PSC. Burrows also served as assistant attorney general in the consumer utilities rate advocacy division in the Arkansas Attorney General’s office prior to her post with the PSC.

Entergy Arkansas’ Office of Economic Development has made a few new hires. The nine-person Teamwork Arkansas staff added Clarissa McWherter as a senior project manager. Her focus will be recruiting new business to the Entergy Arkansas service areas and coordinating responses to business customers’ electricity needs.

Chris Murphy joined Teamwork Arkansas as a project manager to help retain and expand existing businesses. He is a 20-year veteran of Arkansas manufacturing with management experience in sectors of petrochemical, automotive, and renewable energy.

Russell Harris joined the economic development team in early 2014 as an industrial account executive. In this position he manages both commercial and service support activities with Entergy Arkansas’ largest customers.

Dateline: Wonderview, Ark.

The New York Times tours much quieter natural gas fields in Arkansas with Southwestern Energy CEO Steven Mueller. Southwestern is the largest player in the Fayetteville Shale play, but thanks to technology and the laws of supply and demand, natural gas drilling is far less crowded than it was a decade ago.

Natural gas prices have been taking it on the chin, just like crude oil prices. Southwestern’s aggressiveness has many industry analysts questioning a bit of a lone wolf strategy.

“Most of the companies — on the pure economics, oil versus gas — think we are crazy,” Mr. Mueller acknowledged with a thin smile. “I mean, when I walk in the room it’s like, ‘They’re crazy, they haven’t gone to oil.’ ”

After so much hype and billions of dollars in investment, the nation is deluged with gas and not enough pipelines to carry the bounty to consumers. One energy company after another, year after year, has written off or slimmed down its investments here and in Texas and Louisiana.

But not Southwestern Energy, a Houston-based company that has risen from being the nation’s 40th to become the fourth-largest producer of natural gas.

Read more of this interview at this link.