Houston’s CenterPoint Energy has completed an electric transmission line that will bring power to Houston, likely easing price spikes and congestion in a region where power demand outpaces the local transmission capacity.
On March 29, CenterPoint powered up its 60-mile, 345 -kilovolt transmission line that runs through Grimes, Waller and Harris Counties. The project cost $285 million, and is expected to add 20 cents per month to bills for customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of power a month.
The so-called Brazos Valley Connection is the southern portion of the utility’s Houston Import Project, a 130-mile transmission line that stretches from Limestone County to Houston.
Half of Houston’s power comes from areas outside the city, which means Houston leans on a handful of transmission lines that can quickly get congested. Studies by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid overseer, have found that transmission lines could become so congested that blackouts at times of peak demand could hit Houston by 2018.
Without the Brazos Valley line, Houston had been prone to wholesale power price spikes driven by an excess in power demand but a lack of nearby transmission lines with the capacity to carry it all. The wholesale price spikes in Houston often rippled throughout the state, and eventually made their way into retail electric bills.
Merchant power companies, which make money when electricity prices are higher, opposed the project. Houston-based NRG Energy and Calpine Corp. both made unsuccessful bids to stop the project as CenterPoint spent three years of holding public meetings, acquiring hundreds of private property easements and meeting regulatory requirements.