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Portland General Electric Joins ALLETE, Grid United on $3.2B North Plains Transmission Project


Dive Brief:

  • Portland General Electric on Tuesday signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Grid United and Allete, to join in the development of the $3.2 billion, 3-GW North Plains Connector transmission project. The proposed 415-mile high-voltage line would run from an existing substation in Colstrip, Montana, to an existing substation in Center, North Dakota, and a new substation in Morton County, North Dakota. 
  • Negotiations around PGE’s involvement are continuing, and the parties say the Oregon-based utility is expected to take a 20% ownership share of the project.
  • Developers say the bidirectional, up to 525-kV line will be the first to connect the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Western Interconnection and Southwest Power Pool territories. The project could be operational as early as 2031.

Dive Insight:

For PGE, the North Plains stake means access to 600 MW of transfer capacity, diverse energy resources, and enhanced wholesale markets.

The project “is a key step in serving the growing needs of customers with safe, reliable, clean energy through joint collaboration,” said PGE President and CEO Maria Pope. “Additional transmission capacity will provide access to renewable energy over a wider and diverse geographic area, helping to deliver economic and environmental benefits.”

PGE serves more than 900,000 customers and is working to reduce emissions from its retail power supply by 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2040, relative to a three-year average emissions baseline set by state lawmakers. 

The North Plains project was announced in 2023 and remains in the planning and development phase.

Grid United and Allete say they are gathering input from stakeholders and studying the proposed project corridor. “Using that input, we will finalize our route analysis, purchase land rights, and initiate regulatory filings, with approvals expected in 2026,” according to the project web site.

The North Plains transmission line will “more than double the transfer capacity between the eastern and western U.S. electric grids,” allowing PGE to improve customer reliability through the addition of diverse resources, the companies said.

Project developers say construction of the North Plains line is expected to create over 600 jobs and once built it will enable additional energy production in Montana and North Dakota.

“Countless studies have shown that interregional transmission dramatically enhances reliability, saves consumers money and is critical to meeting the growing demand for electricity,” said Michael Skelly, CEO of Grid United, an independent transmission development company.

The U.S. Department of Energy concluded in a draft report last year that the country will likely need 47,300 GW-miles of new transmission by 2035 and that interregional transmission offers the biggest benefits. In particular, the study found “significant value” in connecting the Southwest Power Pool with the Mountain region of the Western Interconnection and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator.