Tribpedia: Crez Transmission Lines

The Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) transmission lines are a response to a directive by the Texas Legislature passed in 2005. To reach the renewable energy goals set by the Legislature and support the growing wind industry in Texas, the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) created a plan to identify areas with potential wind capacity, the CREZ, and build a transmission infrastructure to move wind energy to populated areas. The PUC ordered the Electric Reliability Coalition of Texas (ERCOT) to identify the CREZ and design possible scenarios for transmission lines.

The PUC approved a transmission plan proposed by ERCOT in 2008 to create more than 2,300 miles of transmission lines linking the five CREZ regions — Central, Central West, McCamey and the Panhandle — to more densely populated cities in Central and East Texas. The PUC has contracted with 13 companies to build the transmission lines and has approved eight proposed lines. After gaining approval from the PUC, the transmission companies must negotiate with property owners to build the lines. In cases where the owners resist, transmission companies can use eminent domain to acquire the land. Transmission companies expect to recoup the cost of the CREZ transmission lines — estimated at $4.93 billion — from residential ratepayers by adding a monthly charge of $3 to $5 for about a decade.

The Legislature initiated the CREZ project in 2005 to help create a competitive market for wind power in Texas. Most investors did not want to build wind farms until transmission lines existed to move the energy to populated areas. To build both the wind farm and an accompanying transmission line was too costly for most wind developers. The bill also increased the amount of renewable energy that electricity providers were required to use.

Many counties oppose the development of CREZ transmission lines. Opposition is strongest in the Hill Country, where residents fear that lines being built by the Lower Colorado River Authority will ruin the beautiful vistas. Hill Country residents also claim the transmission lines will negatively impact endangered bird species, a large bat colony, the historic Pinta trail used by Indians and Pioneers, and unique landforms such as the Llano Uplift. Residents in Denton County are opposing plans by Dallas-based utility, Oncor to build transmission lines through Denton County. Oncor plans to build the most transmission lines, 850 miles.