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Portland General Electric (NYSE: POR) and the Bonneville Power Administration today announced they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue a modification to PGE’s proposed Cascade Crossing Transmission Project that could benefit the region’s grid while significantly reducing environmental impacts.

PGE initially proposed a 215-mile transmission project from Boardman, Ore. to Salem, Ore. Under the modification in the MOU, the line would begin at Boardman and follow the path of the original project, but terminate at a new Pine Grove substation that PGE would build about 18 miles southwest of Maupin. This would eliminate about 101 miles of the project from the Maupin area to Salem, avoiding most impacts to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, the Mt. Hood and Willamette national forests and private forest and agricultural land in Marion and Linn counties.

PGE also would invest in grid enhancements and/or exchange assets with BPA to increase transmission capacity, and potentially reduce congestion and enhance reliability of the grid. In return, PGE could receive up to 2,600 megawatts of transmission capacity ownership rights to deliver electricity to customers in Portland and the Willamette Valley. Specific contract terms are still under discussion.

“PGE and BPA have been working collaboratively, using a ‘one-utility’ approach, to identify opportunities to leverage both utilities’ current and future transmission assets,” said Bill Nicholson, PGE senior vice president of customer service, transmission and distribution. “This solution should reduce the impacts of new transmission, manage costs and benefit customers of both utilities.”

“We are very pleased with the collaborative effort with PGE and believe we have found a better alternative that reduces the overall economic and environmental costs of adding transmission capacity,” said BPA Transmission Services senior vice president Larry Bekkedahl. “We are in the early stages of exploring the commercial business aspects of working together to assure adequate, reliable and cost-effective transmission is provided for the Northwest.”

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