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Exclusive: Portland utility commits stake in $3.2B Grid United transmission project

May 28, 2024
Illustration of an electricity pylon with a dollar sign at the top.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Power utility Portland General Electric on Tuesday morning agreed to acquire a 20% stake in the North Plains Connector, pending approvals.

Why it matters: The Grid United-led project plans a high-voltage line that would connect three U.S. electricity markets around the clock, enabling them to trade power across huge swaths of the country.

The big picture: The $3.2 billion North Plains Connector would run between North Dakota and Montana.

  • The 415-mile project would roughly triple the amount of electricity that can be shared between America's eastern and western electric grids, which are largely split along the Colorado and Kansas border.
  • It would also link the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Western Interconnection and the Southwest Power Pool electricity markets.

Reality check: The agreement is a non-binding memorandum of understanding. PGE will only invest once permits and regulator approval are obtained.

Yes, but: The agreement adds momentum to Grid United's efforts.

Catch up quick: Grid United is the Houston transmission developer solely bankrolled by billionaire John Arnold.

  • A single project can connect far-flung solar and wind projects to electric grids and enable the country's various electric networks to share power with one another.
  • They also take forever to build, cost huge amounts of money and face major regulatory hurdles.

State of play: Grid United is pursuing about a half-dozen transmission projects.

  • The North Plains Connector, being developed with Duluth, Minnesota, power company Allete, could see construction begin in 2027.
  • Another Grid United project, the 278-mile Southline Transmission Project connecting El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz., may start construction as soon as next year.
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