Transmission Buildout // August 2023 CEO Column

Daniel Carlisle // President/CEO & General Counsel

Great River Energy, wholesale power supplier to Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC), is transitioning from a historically coal-dependent cooperative to one with low carbon intensity. The cooperative is on track to meet Minnesota’s 80% greenhouse gas reduction goal decades ahead of schedule.

This type of news makes headlines every day, but there’s a critical piece of the story that is not being talked about as broadly: The need to expand our nation’s electric transmission grid to facilitate this transition. As the resources we use to generate electricity change, the system of interconnected power lines that delivers it from where it is created to where it is needed must change, too. Without significant investments in our electric grid, the reliability of electric service that we all rely on is at risk. 

The good news is plans are well underway to expand and upgrade the region’s grid in the Upper Midwest. Great River Energy continuously works with our region’s grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), to ensure the right transmission investments are made. For the past two years, Great River Energy has been actively engaged in MISO’s process of developing a long-range transmission plan (LRTP) and advocated for the projects that are in the best interest of its members for reliability, affordability, and fairness. 

Earlier this year, MISO set a huge grid expansion in motion across the Upper Midwest when it approved the first phase of transmission solutions in its LRTP. This $10.3 billion portfolio includes 18 large projects that will help ensure continued reliability across the region for decades as power plants retire, more renewable energy comes online, and we continue to see the need for resilience to extreme weather.

TWEC and Great River Energy support the portfolio MISO approved. When complete, it will allow significantly more new generation capacity to connect to the transmission grid. It will be the largest simultaneous grid buildout since cooperatives originally brought electricity to rural communities. 

Great River Energy, in partnership with Minnesota Power, is co-developing the largest project in Minnesota called the  Northland Reliability Project . This 150-mile transmission line will run from northern Minnesota near Grand Rapids to central Minnesota near Becker, expected to be completed by 2030. It will provide benefits to northern and central Minnesota specifically, while improving the electric system overall in Minnesota and beyond. 

Building out the grid also helps us get ready for the future impacts of electrification as power demand continues to grow and extreme weather events become more frequent. We need to keep an eye toward the future and ensure we have a system ready for the increasing load and greater dependence on electricity. TWEC is committed to making sure the electricity that powers our lives is clean, safe, and as reliable as ever.