Midwest power-grid regulators debate best way to balance costs

A dispute over how to pay for expensive high-voltage power lines in the Midwest is heating up as some states including Missouri raise concerns about the soaring price tag.

The issue involves upgrades to the region’s grid of electric transmission lines to reliably move large amounts of power, often from state to state. The need for more transmission capacity has become especially critical in places such as Kansas that hope to become major exporters of wind energy to other parts of the country.

The projects have cleared several hurdles, including approval by the Southwest Power Pool, a regional group that oversees the electric grid in all or part of nine states including Kansas and Missouri.

The cost of the proposed high-voltage lines, including one $456 million project planned in Kansas and Oklahoma that’s being shifted to avoid prairie chicken habitat, has already reached $1.4 billion. Additional overruns or transmission projects yet to be approved could add additional billions.

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