On July 28, 2010, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (the "Commission") issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NOPR") regarding rules related to electric transmission facilities planning (the "Proposed Rules").  The Proposed Rules are based, in large part, on the input provided by all interested parties in the workshops and written comments in connection with Docket Nos. 08I-227E and 09M-616E and in response to certain legislative and policy changes impacting transmission planning significantly.  In response to these legislative and policy changes, some of the key issues that need to be addressed in transmission planning include transmission-related challenges to satisfying State of Colorado’s renewable energy portfolio standard for electricity generation, distributed generation set-asides, and requirements that the Commission give the fullest possible consideration to cost-effective implementation of new clean energy and energy efficient technologies.  In implementing the Proposed Rules, the Commission recognizes that "both state-wide coordinated transmission planning and a meaningful involvement in such planning by stakeholders and the Commission are essential."  NOPR at 2-3.  In addition, the Commission concluded that "an effective transmission planning approach needs to be long-term and pro-active rather than just-in-time and reactive."

Under the Proposed Rules, the Commission will rely on the Colorado Coordinated Planning Group ("CCPG") as the primary means by which jurisdictional electric utilities will develop the ten-year transmission plans and the twenty-year conceptual plans contemplated under the rules, in consultation with other CCPG members and stakeholders.  Overall, the Proposed Rules set forth the general objectives associated with the biennial filing of the following:  

  • ten-year transmission plans;
  • twenty-year conceptual plans;
  • associated economic studies that jurisdictional electric utilities will develop through CCPG.

At its core, a ten-year transmission plan is required to be:

  1. consistent with the single-system planning concept, defined as a collective use of the existing transmission system and making the appropriate additions, upgrades and enhancements to the system as if the transmission system were owned by a single entity;
  2. coordinated with all transmission providers in Colorado; and
  3. developed in conjunction with the CCPG, a formal subregional transmission planning organization recognized by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council ("WECC"), in a manner consistent with its charter and with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") regulations regarding transmission planning.

Under the Proposed Rules, it is expected that the jurisdictional utilities will file their first transmission plan in February 2011.  In addition, it is anticipated that there will be an interaction between the biennial tranmission planning process, the "Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity" ("CPCN") proceedings, electric resource planning and the Senate Bill 100 processes.  One specific intent of the Proposed Rules is to provide useful information to stakeholders and the Commission in CPCN proceedings in terms of identifying how a proposed transmission facility fits into a larger state-wide transmission plan — this is particularly important in facilitating the integration of location-constrained renewable energy resources.

Finally, the Commission found that the state-wide coordinated transmission planning must be open to all stakeholders and address both reliability and economic considerations in order for the process to be effective.  The Commission noted that while the CCPG charter provides that CCPG meetings and membership are open to all interested stakeholders, the Proposed Rules also provide that in connection with the biennial filings, the utilities are required to demonstrate the outreach to interested stakeholders that occurred in the development of the ten and twenty year transmission plans.

For those interested in commenting on the Proposed Rules, here is an overview of dates/deadlines set forth in the NOPR:

  • Pre-filed comments must be submitted by August 25, 2010
  • Reply comments must be submitted by September 1, 2010
  • A hearing on the Proposed Rules will be held before Hearing Commissioner James Tarpey on Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. in Commission Hearing Room A, 1560 Broadway, Suite 250, Denver, Colorado.