Guest Column

Investment in electronic transmission infrastructure powers growth

October 17, 2014
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I noted with great interest that the leading mandate out of the 2014 West Michigan Policy Forum was a call to action on needed investment in the state’s infrastructure.

Addressing transportation improvements certainly will help, but much more needs to be done. This is a critical time because the U.S. economy finally seems ready to grow. Since the end of the recession, unemployment has dropped nationally and in Michigan. In terms of rising housing prices and increasing manufacturing output, our state is ahead of the national average and is one of the leading states in the Great Lakes region.

To maintain that momentum, Michigan’s and the nation’s growing economies require strong infrastructure. Attracting and keeping business in Michigan is a top statewide goal for economic development, but it can’t happen without infrastructure investment.

Such investment is familiar territory for ITC. As the owner and operator of the high-voltage electrical grid in most of the Lower Peninsula, we have invested more than $2.6 billion since 2003 to improve grid performance and reliability and connect new generation resources. A considerable amount of this investment has focused on the western and northern regions of the state, where our subsidiary, Michigan Electric Transmission Co. LLC, owns, operates and maintains more than 5,600 miles of transmission lines. In recent years we have constructed 60 miles of new transmission lines and rebuilt and upgraded more than 120 additional miles of lines on the western side of the state. In 2013, about 80 percent of ITC’s spending for construction, service and maintenance activities was in support of Michigan companies. Reliable, high-quality power is important to attracting and maintaining businesses and creating jobs in Michigan, along with highways, pipelines and other critical infrastructure.

One good example here in Michigan involves a project connecting the state’s largest wind generator, the 200-megawatt Gratiot County Wind Farm, to ITC’s transmission grid. The system upgrades that enabled the generator connection have resulted in a more robust and reliable grid in that area. This is assisting Greater Gratiot Development Inc. in its efforts to attract new businesses such as data centers that require large supplies of high quality power.

Michigan is faring well with respect to reliability and grid resiliency. ITC’s investments to upgrade Michigan’s high-voltage grid put our systems in a position to support Gov. Rick Snyder’s “No Regrets” energy future. One of Snyder’s key goals is electric reliability. ITC’s approach to grid investments takes into consideration the reliability of the electric grid today and assures the flexibility of the grid to meet Michigan’s energy demands tomorrow.

These transmission investments will improve reliability and system efficiency, and also provide greater access to low-cost generating sources for Michigan’s energy consumers. Dependable, high-quality, affordable power is crucial to business and manufacturing in Michigan.

As a company whose only mission is to build, own, operate and maintain electric transmission lines and facilities, ITC is pleased to be leading the way to make important energy infrastructure investments in Michigan. These projects will help ensure that Michigan not only gets a passing infrastructure grade, but, more importantly, meets its current and future energy needs and benefits from an economy that continues to grow.

Gregory Ioanidis is president of ITC Michigan, comprised of ITCTransmission and Michigan Electric Transmission Co. (METC), operating subsidiaries of Novi-based ITC Holdings Corp., the largest independent electricity transmission company in the country.

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