“My decision today reflects a shift for BPA — from the traditional approach of primarily relying on new construction to meet changing transmission needs, to embracing a more flexible, scalable, and economically and operationally efficient approach to managing our transmission system,” Mainzer wrote in a letter addressed to “parties interested in the I-5 Corridor Reinforcement Project.”
In an interview with The Columbian, Mainzer said congestion is still a problem along the north-south corridor. However, the agency will address congestion with a suite of tools, including a less conservative and more “risk informed” approach in its capacity calculations, the development of new tools to monitor the grid in real time, collaboration with other regional utilities, and will look to nonwire solutions such as battery storage and electrical flow control devices.
“Traditionally, the solution to a problem like this is, ‘Let’s go build a line’ — and lines are great — they provide a lot of certainty and capacity,” he said. “But the question was not necessarily what transmission line we have to build, but how do we have to solve the transmission problem.”
Mainzer said the death of the project doesn’t mean an end to transmission-line construction in the Pacific Northwest. But in the future, the agency plans to look at finding more efficient ways to move power and to build at the smallest possible scale.
While the BPA invested nine years into studying the project, Mainzer said the agency is still calculating how much money it invested in the project.
The cities of Camas and Washougal were also critical of the new larger transmission lines and urged BPA to consider other alternatives.
BPA officials at the time said they reviewed more than 10,000 comments submitted on the project’s draft environmental impact statement.
Mainzer said he understands the uncertainty the project created for some area land and homeowners and that he’s thankful for the time, energy and patience they also put into the decision-making process.
“I simply could not risk making a decision of this magnitude without first acquiring the best possible information, and I can say with confidence today that Bonneville is making the best decision for the region.”
In a statement released by the BPA, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, said she commended the agency for working with landowners, community groups and municipalities.
“Frankly, BPA’s willingness to reverse course on the planned 500-kilovolt lattice-steel-tower transmission line that would have bisected our communities is somewhat unprecedented,” she said. “It should serve as a model for other public entities who need to be willing to constantly reassess their decisions to make sure the community is at the center of them.”