April 8th, 2015
More on the special legislation for Black Oak and Getty Wind Projects!
Remember that hard-to-believe Senate Energy Committee meeting a couple weeks ago?
It’s an amendment to the Senate Ominous Energy bill to extend the term of wind rights contracts. What they’ve decided can’t be done in the contracts (DOH — is there a reason they’re having trouble?), they’ve decided to do unilaterally, legislatively, in special legislation incorporated into the Senate Energy Ominous Bill, S.F. 1431 (1st Engrossment):
Here’s the audio of the Committee meeting:
It’s been getting some attention, and not the kind of attention they want… GOOD!
And, oh, there she goes again:
“This is a really poor way to do policy,” said Carol Overland, an attorney who has represented residents opposed to Black Oak. “… It’s crafted in such a way that they don’t name it. Therefore, they would say it’s not special legislation. But it is designed only for this project.”
I just happened to be at that hearing, objecting to the e21 Initiative language in S.F. 1735 which was to have been incorporated into the Energy Ominous Bill… and heard this and other amendments that were shocking! Had I not been there, who would have noticed this special legislation? Thing is, “special legislation” happens in Minnesota all the time, particularly on energy issues, just look at all the utility personal property tax exemptions, and at all the bills framed around Xcel Energy, f/k/a Northern States Power. Special legislation shouldn’t be happening, but nobody seems to care. They pretend that because it isn’t named in the bill, it’s not “special legislation.” We know better. And Sen. Weber, in introducing this A-12 amendment for Black Oak Getty Wind, specifically said that it was for the “Black Oak Getty Wind Project” which is what got my attention. And the article quotes some of what he said (why not the part using the words “Black Oak Getty Wind Project”).
“The project is in its early stages of construction. However, it will not be completed by the time the seven-year period expires,” Weber said in the hearing. “The purpose of this amendment is to thereby extend that seven-year period by one year to an eight-year period. The amendment is very specific as to the description of the project and it is this project.”
Yes, this is special legislation, and it’s not OK.
April 3rd, 2015
There’s Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad showing how it’s done! He’s just axed Sheila Tipton from the Iowa Utilities Board, shortly after it made a decision that MidAmerican Energy did not like. Three days after that Feb. 6 decision, the company had a meeting with the Gov, and they openly admit that! Really? That’s OK?
As of March 2, Sheila Tipton is out… He also demoted the Chair Libby Jacobs! Guess when MidAmerican complains, Branstad hops to it!
When Foley asked about Tipton, he was told that top officials from MidAmerican Energy had met with Branstad on Feb. 9 to criticize a Feb. 6 Utilities Board ruling in a rate case. The amount of money involved was not large by utility standards, and both the governor’s office and MidAmerican officials denied any connection between the ruling and the change in Utilities Board membership.
Tipton had recused herself from that case because of her previous legal work for the owner of the owner of that transmission line. Branstad’s spokesman told Foley the governor wanted three voting members on the board when it considers the transmission line case and whether eminent domain should be used. The reason was that a single “no” vote could stall the project if the board had only two voting members.
This was a $2 million annual return to ratepayers/rate reduction. Less than 1% of the capital cost of the project, on which they will be making how much? By owning it themselves they’re eliminating paying the middleman as they would with a PPA, and they’re getting the tax credits, and they’re also probably selling the energy for export. They are also the utility that just built a BIG coal plant on the western edge of the state at the “MidAmerican Energy Center” and are also the utility that is building part of the MISO MVP transmission highway across the top of Iowa, coincidentally starting connected to the 345 kV line attached to their big coal plant… applications have been filed for this project. Tipton had recused herself from this transmission project docket as she’d represented MidAmerican! Something tells me Braindead didn’t want to take chances on that transmission with any scrutiny of the project!
Here are the MISO MVP 345kV connections to the existing system to build the Energy Export Interstate System!
But with the new appointee…
Must mean Braindead doesn’t mind if she recuses herself from that case, after all, she might be biased toward landowners! Better if she not be a decider on that, eh?
March 18th, 2015
Please say no to S.F. 1735, a bill that would result in removal of the regulatory protections for rate-payers and the public, and let utilities have the ability to charge us for private costs, and costs that have not been demonstrated to be prudent expenditures.
Little by little, Xcel Energy’s e21 Initiative is slithering into bills before the House and Senate Energy Committees.
Before anyone can vote on these bills, they should read Alfred Kahn’s “The Economics of Regulation,” both Volume 1 and Volume 2.
What’s e21 Initiative? Here’s what Xcel filed at PUC, docket 14-1055:
What’s up with S.F. 1735? Well, check out this version, with yellow highlighting (and this is NOT all-inclusive):
SF 1735doesn’t have the part about “Competitive Rate for Energy-Intensive Trade-Exposed Electric Utility Customer” part that HF 1315 does, though we’ll see what the mines and Koch Refinery have to say about that when the Energy Ominous bill comes together and everyone has their hand out and foot in the door.
SF 1735 is a problem because… where to start… the first problem is that it proposes, as Xcel does in e21, a BUSINESS PLAN which “replaces a general rate case filing,” REPLACES! The standard it must meet is that it result in “just and reasonable rates,” and there’s nothing about “prudent” and there’s nothing about being in the public interest. DOH!
And dig how it would be approved — they SHALL approve:
Stakeholder group… right, we know who that is, and we sure know who that isn’t! And that’s the e21 Initiative mantra, stakeholders, and from who was included in e21, we know who would be deemed a stakeholder — all those who have done deals with Xcel Energy! Oh, and DOH, they want approvals at the PUC based on “Settlement Agreements.” Right, like the one that opened the door and welcomed CapX 2020 transmission, and that horriffic “it’s a deal, it’s a package deal, and it’s a good deal” of the 2005 Ch 97 – Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell with Xcel transmission perks, CWIP and C-BED :
PUC decision based on “stakeholders” and deals with Xcel Energy? No, I think not.
Per the House hearing on HF 341 (see also S.F. 237), Minnesota should now be an electricity exporter, which is one between-the-lines goal of e21 Initiative, the others being ability to build without demonstrating need, to use ratepayer money for market development, to eliminate contested cases and use “Settlement Agreements,” which they’ve done expertly in the past. Exporting for profit is doable, now that we have the transmission in place. It would help Xcel Energy to just get rid of that Certificate of Need requirement, which HF 341 would do for natural gas plants of any size, i.e., 800 MW (like the LS Power Sunrise Station proposed for Chisago County, Lent Township) if it’s for sale into the MISO market. As you know, also up for consideration is SF 306 & 536, HF 338, which would lift the nuclear prohibition and allow a CoN for Monticello or anywhere. There’s no need, instead there’s excess generation, but that electricity could also go into the market, and with Construction Work in Progress, Minn. Stat. 216B.16, Subd. 6a, we ratepayers could pay for that private market activity. NO. NO. NO.
The situation we’re in is NOT new to Xcel or any other utility.
- Distribution system is utility responsibility as franchise holder and regulated utility, but they’ve neglected the distribution system over decades. They have chosen not to upgrade and not to bring it into the 21st Century. That neglect is not ours to correct. Xcel has twice tried to invade and inflict communities with transmission when they had identified a distribution system deficit — Hiawatha and Hollydale. NO!
- Transmission deficit a decade ago was caused by putting so many IPP gas plants on line without requiring transmission upgrades. This is reflected in the TLTG tables for the SW MN 345 kV line, PUC Docket 01-1958. It also became an issue when Big Stone II was proposed because at that time it was “cause cost pays” and they hadn’t been charging gas plants but were going to charge BSII for interconnection costs, and BSII objected (see “standstill agreement” and withdrawal of Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment from that project at Legalectric: Bill Gates & Otter Tail at the PUC Tuesday…). That transmission CoN was denied, approved, and plant was withdrawn so non-issue. Then utilities and paid-for-NGOs went to MISO and FERC to find a way to spread the payment of transmission construction costs around, which they did. The ones building it are not necessarily the ones paying for it, and it’s us ratepayers paying for transmission construction all around the country (See Schedule 26A, MISO Tariff, also Tariff MM) and the PUC has yet to address whether that should be paid for by us — but wait, it’s FERC rates, so the PUC has no say… well, that MISO MVP bill hasn’t come before the PUC yet, and that’s the last thing Xcel wants. That capital cost is for private purpose transmission (market transactions) and as such, it is not ours to pay.
- Generation changed decades ago too, moving away from utility construction and ownership, collect revenue for that, and now it’s morphed to an IPP (Independent Power Producer) mode where a third party takes on risk and cost of construction and sells power to utilities. It’s been that way for decades. Xcel has done some coal plant update, and nuclear update/uprate (grossly over budget by factor of 2+), but no new plants. This shift from that regulated revenue stream was a business choice of utilities, but now they’re looking to make up that revenue that they don’t get for building the plants. That business choice is not ours to “fix.”
- Rates — Utilities want out of rate cases! Of course they’d want that, Xcel has lost ground in their rate demands the last few rounds. A Business Plan is not adequate, however, they need to prove up their expenditures if they expect us to pay them, and we should not, must not, be assessed for their market private purpose expenses, like transmission for export. The bills for CapX 2020 ($2 billion) and for MISO MVP projects ($5.2 billion across Midwest) are the types of large expenses that they do not want to have to justify. Not wanting to go through a rate case is no reason for us to let go of that protective review, or to let them charge us for things that are not public purpose expenditures necessitated by their obligation to provide universal service under their franchise.
- Deregulation — this “e21 Initiative” looks and feels like the 2000 deregulation push to me, particularly with all the support from “environmental” and “advocacy” organizations, well funded, and funded I believe by Xcel and cronies (and that information should be made public). Utilities wanted deregulation (back when Enron and Xcel’s NRG was making 300% profits screwing over California in an orchestrated rate skyrocket) and at that time, Xcel had all the “environmental” organizations behind it as “inevitable restructuring.” Everyone was jumping on the deregulation bandwagon, all bozos on that bus, and that’s how this e21 feels. Lots of people agreeing without knowing what they’re talking about, without understanding the consequences. Back in that earlier deregulation push, the utilities also had everyone on board to pay them “stranded costs” for their large generating plants. Thankfully the A.G. stood up to that pointing out that deregulation is a disaster where ever it goes, and that the claimed “stranded costs” were really stranded assets, and if anyone owed anyone money, the utilities owed us for their assets that were paid for and fully depreciated. Read Corneli on Stranded Assets.
This is not new to utilities. It is not our job to correct their business plan errors, to pay for their neglect, or to finance their market activities.
More on this soon… but the short version, NO to SF 1735. NO to SF 1431.
NO! NO! NO!
It’s not in the public interest.
And by the way, the “WE NEED MORE” histrionic mantra that you year year after year is false. Excess generation? Yes — here’s the peak demand that Xcel Energy has reported on its SEC 10-K filings since 1995:
Also from the 2014 SEC 10-K link:
The question to ask is “What’s stopping utilities?” And it’s not our regulatory system. It’s that utilities are looking for additional ways to transfer their costs to ratepayers without regulatory review.
February 17th, 2015
It’s that time again, time for the “Book of the Day!” Today it’s:
And you can get it at the library or pretty cheap at the abebooks link above!
Perfect for those of us who love the road but can’t get out there as often as we’d like. Part policy, part psychology, with lots of SOLs! (that’s SNORT out loud)
There are some great snippets in here. A favorite part is about traffic calming, what works, what doesn’t. There was this problem with people going too fast through a deer crosswalk, and they put up signs, and, well, who pays attention. Sign didn’t slow them, sensors with flashing lights when deer were present didn’t slow them, one thing that did get their attention was that someone dumped a deer carcass by the road, that got them to slow down!
Other ideas to slow traffic down, speed bumps (which tend to speed people up!), put a kids bike by the side of the road, a weird sculpture, “a ‘Street Reclaiming Chair,’ a bright throne of sorts, in the middle of a local street and then, wearing a large colorful crown, chat with passing drivers who, not surprisingly, have slowed.” And of course, topless Danish models holding speed-limit signs.
Factoids like: The US pays about 1/2 of the fuel taxes of drivers in Canada, 1/4 that of the Japanese, and 1/10 of the English. Adjusted for inflation, the fuel tax brings in less revenue than it did in the 1960s. YES, INCREASE THE GAS TAX!!!
Lots on street and highway design. Can’t get enough!
February 10th, 2015
Today is the Xcel Energy “stakeholder” meeting for “stakeholders” at the PUC. For the IRP docket, CLICK HERE and search for PUC Docket 15-21.
Here are their scenarios:
Regulatory process and timeline. January 2 filing, 900 pages, and today between that filing and March 16, 2015 filing. That March 16 filing will be next piece and will complete filing of plan to Commission, then forward with Information Requests and stakeholder meetings, and then PUC decision within next year or so, depending on what’s happening in stakeholder process. Three components:
1) CAPCON Order (capacity acquisition process)
- Aurora Solar
- Calpine combine cycle expension
- Black Dog 6 Natural gas
2) Increase small solar forecast
3) Sherco Retirement Scenario
- Sherco 1 & 2 retirement in 2020
- Sherco 1 retirement in 2020, Sherco 2 retirement in 2023 (based on capacity acquisition process, retirement, etc. scheduling)
For questions about the IRP, contact Jim Alders firstname.lastname@example.org
This is on the heels of last night’s meeting of “Citizens League Electric Energy” group. From the Citizens League site:
And notes from committee meetings:
The January 26 meeting isn’t posted, but I scanned them in and will post later. They had a charge of the “committee” in the Phase 2 Report to support Xcel Energy’s “e21 Initiative” below:
That charge contained this specific direction:
… the Citizens League Study Committee will be asked to draft both a statement and legislation to direct the Public Utilities [Commission] to convene this public dialogue with the support of external stakeholder efforts.
So we shouldn’t have been surprised… That charge was pretty much fulfilled and presented to the group last night, BUT the good news is that in addition to Alan and my objections to that endorsement of the “e21 Initiative,” there were several long-time Citizens League members who objected to the way that this was done and the endorsement of the e21 Initiative. (I’ll insert the draft when I get back)
Short version, the Draft was soundly rejected. WHEW!
And for those concerned about this e21 Initiative, Intervene!!! Yes, Citizen’s League, that’s something YOU can do!
February 4th, 2015