New transmission lines will help power booming shale regions

New transmission lines linking portions of West Texas to the Dallas-Forth Worth region will be completed by the end of this year, transmission line officials said at a Tuesday conference on electricity issues sponsored by Platts.

The transmissions line project, known as the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, is a project that will add 2,200 miles of new transmission lines in West Texas. There will be lines stretching from Lubbock to Austin. It also will link portions of the Panhandle with the Dallas-Forth Worth area. The project has cost about $7 billion.

“The primary power flows were from west to east, and the transmission lines were designed to facilitate wind power to the load zones of Austin and Metroplex areas, but we are seeing power flows both ways now,” said Collin Martin, director of transmissions for Oncor Electric Delivery.

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Oncor, one of the chief providers of the new transmission lines, is the largest regulated transmission and distribution utility in Texas, and serves about a third of Texas.

The new lines will provide much needed transmission capacity, but more is needed, according to a recent report by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which noted that Texas transmission providers will complete $8.9 billion in improvements by 2017.

While the planning for the new transmission lines began in 2009, regulatory and routing issues held up construction until the end of 2011, but construction took off at a frenetic pace since that time, and has not slowed.

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The transmission lines will bring electricity into some of the hottest energy plays in West Texas that lack needed infrastructure, such as the Permian Basin and Cline Shales, Martin said. High rates of growth in these areas has overloaded transmission lines and created congestion.

“It has created opportunity in terms of expansion, to facilitate the growth that is in the area,” Martin said. “Without the CREZ lines, we would be having a much more serious discussion about what are the needs to facilitate the increased demand in West Texas.”