Tres Amigas Superstation granted power to set electricity rates

By Liliana Castillo: Freedom New Mexico

The proposed Tres Amigas Superstation got some of the power it needed to surge forward with plans to link the nation’s three electric grids with a central site near Clovis.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted Tres Amigas permission Thursday to start negotiating the price of its transmission services with regulations to ensure those prices are fair.

If constructed, the Tres Amigas complex would allow the diversion of excess electric power by transmitting it from one grid to the other.

Gov. Bill Richardson has said the project could mean billions of dollars being spent locally by the company and it would bring countless construction jobs to eastern New Mexico.

In this latest ruling, the federal commission said it welcomed the Tres Amigas concept.

However, commissioners said they weren’t ready to give the project a blanket disclaimer of jurisdiction over prospective transmission lines connecting the Electric Reliability Council of Texas with Tres Amigas.

Tres Amigas President Phil Harris said that means transmission companies from ERCOT will need to get approval from FERC on a line-by-line basis.

“We didn’t want to have to do that because it can be expensive. But we see this as all positive,” Harris said.

Harris said while the commission didn’t grant a blanket disclaimer, they did let Tres Amigas know how to proceed.

Harris also said the rulings are “very much a key milestone for moving ahead with the project.”

The commission approved of the project as a whole in their statements.

“Tres Amigas is a prime example of the creativity and pioneering thinking that our country needs to expand the ability of the transmission grid to reliably deliver all sources of electric generation,” Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

Commissioner John Norris said transmission infrastructure projects are necessary to achieve national energy policy goals.

“The Commission is committed to supporting the development of the new transmission infrastructure that will be needed to access new renewable resources and meet our current and future energy needs. I strongly support this commitment,” he said in his statement.

Harris said the project will begin negotiations to build transmission lines.

Harris said the next goal is to announce a construction schedule, perhaps as early as September.

Harris said the company is in negotiations with PNM Gas Company, Xcel Energy, ITC Holdings Corp. and American Electric Power. He said negotiations could last into the fourth quarter of the year.

“We should have a construction timeline by the end of the year,” he said.