One year away from joining ERCOT grid, Lubbock Power & Light transmission line project underway

Updated: Jun. 1, 2020 at 9:01 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock Power & Light will join the Electric Reliability Council of Texas grid on June 1, 2021. Ahead of the move to ERCOT, LP&L is in the midst of a $300 million project to build the lines to connect to the grid and improve the city’s infrastructure.

“In order to get there, we would need to build transmission lines,” Lubbock Power & Light Spokesperson Matt Rose said. “That would be really the big upfront cost. But, the advantages of building these transmission lines for Lubbock to connect to the Texas grid, which is really just one county north, east and south, is that building transmission lines allows us to participate in the statewide transmission revenue program. We have to build these lines. We have to pay for these lines and we have to have operations and maintenance costs associated with them. But, we also receive a revenue stream back from the ERCOT system that helps offset that for the Lubbock ratepayer.”

Work is underway on 140 miles of transmission lines outside the city limits of Lubbock that will connect to the ERCOT grid. That work is on the north, south and east sides of Lubbock. Meanwhile, the other portion of a capital improvement program is converting 69,000 volt lines to 155,000 volts within the city along with renovating or building 15 substations around Lubbock.

Construction within the city is visible along 82nd Street to a new substation on the Slaton Highway. Lines are also being constructed along North Loop 289 to connect with a northwest substation. LP&L tells KCBD that this and other work is expected to provide for the future growth of Lubbock, assist with transferring power during storm outages and allow for more electricity to run during summer months.

“This project started in about 2014 and it was LP&L taking a look at what we need to do in terms of building out our electrical grid here in the city of Lubbock, in order to promote and secure growth for the next 50 years,” Rose said. “If you look at Lubbock right now, Lubbock is growing, people are moving here, and that’s great. We want to see that. But, it also puts strain on the electrical grid.”

LP&L said the cost of the project has already been factored into rates.

“We’ve adapted a system where our current rate structure is is funding the growth that you see,” Rose said. “We developed a good balance between debt funding and cash funding in order to make sure that we’ve got a healthy financial program going forward so that we can provide affordable and reliable electricity. Both of those things need to work in tandem in order for you to grow for the future and make sure that you’re providing the best service you can for your customers.”

When LP&L joins the ERCOT grid in June of 2021, according to the agreement approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, it won’t immediately join the competitive market. That market of increased competition is what officials hope will provide more affordable power to customers.

“[City] Council has and the Electric Utility Board have signed resolutions of intent,” Rose said. “Once we get into ERCOT we will move towards opting into the competitive market as soon as practicable. It won’t happen on day one, just because there are a lot of things that have to happen, decisions and also structural things. It’s something that we’ve been studying. It’s something that we are looking very closely at. There is a desire by the EUB and the Council to move in that direction. If that comes to be, we would be the first city in the state of Texas to voluntarily opt into the competitive market, since it was brought about in 1999.”

According to LP&L, the work on transmission lines within the city and on those connecting Lubbock to ERCOT will be finished within the next year. Other projects will continue through 2022 and 2023.

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