Trans-Elect became the first independent transmission company in North America when organized in 1999. The Company is comprised of experienced utility, finance, regulatory, legal and management veterans that accumulated ownership of and managed more than 12,600 miles of transmission assets either through acquisitions or building new transmission.
Robert Mitchell initiated the idea for an independent transmission company in 1998 and was joined by a seasoned team of utility, finance, operations and project development executives with a sole focus on electric transmission systems. From the beginning, the mission of Trans- Elect has been to buy, own and/or operate electric transmission systems under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. With market and regulatory emphasis on expanding the electric grid, Trans-Elect expanded its business focus to include the development and construction of new transmission lines. Currently, Trans-Elect is largely engaged in the development, construction and ownership of new transmission projects while also pursuing acquisitions of existing systems.
Trans-Elect became the first independent electric transmission company in the United States to acquire transmission assets from an investor-owned utility when it became a co-general partner of a Canadian consortium that purchased the transmission assets of TransAlta in Alberta, Canada in April of 2002. The company is now known as AltaLink with over 7,200 miles of transmission lines and a capital expenditure budget of $250 million per year.
Shortly following this acquisition, Trans-Elect became the first company to buy a transmission system in the United States from an investor-owned utility when, in May of 2002, it purchased the transmission system of Consumers Energy in Michigan for $288 million. The new company is known as the Michigan Electric Transmission Company (METC). It has 5,400 miles of transmission lines, a capital expenditure budget of approximately $60 million a year. METC was sold to ITC in the fall of 2006.
In late 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger accepted Trans-Elect’s invitation to help energize its first newly-developed transmission line, Path 15, in California. This line was developed in a first of its kind public-private partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) to help overcome the transmission deficiency in California that contributed to the rolling blackouts in California in 2000 and 2001. The Path 15 line was originally budgeted for $325 million and was brought into service ahead of schedule and for $250 million which was almost 25% under budget.
Trans-Elect received the “Project of the Year” award by Project Finance Magazine as this financing was the “first ever greenfield transmission line to be project financed in U.S. history”. Trans-Elect emerged from the project with a reputation of being an industry leader in overcoming complicated regulatory, financing and political challenges.
The United States is coming out of a twenty-five year period of underinvestment in its electric transmission grid. In fact, considering the growth in demand for electricity, the United States has experienced a disinvestment in the grid that has reached dangerous proportions. This reality is now widely accepted by Federal and state regulators and the climate is positive for the electric industry to build and expand the transmission grid. The push to build new transmission is particularly crucial to enable the great potential for renewable generation to reach the market and reduce greenhouse gases.