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PUC chief asks if power line is needed  

Credit:  By Zeke MacCormack - Express-News, www.mysanantonio.com 27 August 2010 ~~

On the heels of an industry group’s finding that one transmission line proposed in the Hill Country isn’t needed, state regulators are seeking a reassessment of the need for second high-voltage power line project planned there.

Public Utility Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman on Thursday asked the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to conduct a needs assessment on the 345-kilovolt line proposed to link substations in Schleicher, Kendall and Gillespie counties.

The development led some to call on the PUC to halt its consideration of route options for the project, next slated for discussion at a prehearing conference Wednesday in Austin.

“The contested case should be abated immediately to allow a full re-evaluation of the need for the lines,” Robert Weatherford of Save Our Scenic Hill Country, based in Fredericksburg, said Thursday.

Grass-roots groups and government entities across the Hill Country are lined up against the $367 million project, part of the state’s Competitive Renewable Energy Zones initiative to improve system reliability and move power from rural wind farms to urban areas.

In his letter, Smitherman praised ERCOT’s analysis that led it to conclude earlier this month that upgrading existing 138-kilovolt lines would alleviate the need for a new 345-kilovolt line proposed between Gillespie and Lampasas counties.

The needs review Smitherman sought on the Schleicher-to-Kendall-to-Gillespie line was requested by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Falls.

In requesting the needs analysis, Fraser told Smitherman in an Aug. 19 letter that the project deserves another look even though prior studies indicate it’s needed to alleviate congestion and to add capacity for new power generation.

“I believe we owe it to the people potentially impacted .. to look at all our options in this project,” Fraser wrote.

Source:  By Zeke MacCormack - Express-News, www.mysanantonio.com 27 August 2010

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