Xcel’s $$$ strategy approved

January 17th, 2011

This came up when our house deal was making life complicated, and then I was off in Colorado, so I didn’t get it posted, now it’s time to catch up!

Xcel went to the PUC for changes in its Capital Organization wiggle-room, and got what they wanted, with some additional reporting requirements.

What I’m noticing is that something like this that ‘s SO important, like the Otter Tail Power “Standstill Agreement,” and like the Otter Tail Power “Standstill Agreement,” there’s enviro silence.  Nobody is on this… why?

Xcel Request – 2011 Capital Organization – Part I

Xcel Request – 2011 Capital Organization – Part II

Xcel Request – 2011 Capital Organization – Part 3

OES Comments

Staff Briefing Papers

Commission Order – Jan 14 2011

Thankfully Bob Geiger, Finance & Commerce, was:

Utilities fielding $2B in projects for 2011

Posted: 5:17 pm Fri, January 7, 2011
By Bob Geiger

Wind, transmission line projects part of busy year for power providers

Minnesota utilities are powering up in 2011, submitting capital spending plans and proposals on power projects that will cost nearly $2 billion.

Utilities’ spending for 2011 is dominated by wind energy projects and planning the CapX2020 network of transmission lines to carry that power to consumers.

Neighbors and conservation groups are strongly opposed to several of the projects involved in these already-approved 2011 spending plans.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy leads utilities in capital spending after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) on Thursday unanimously approved Xcel’s plans to spend $1.2 billion in 2011.

The regulatory board voted to let Xcel issue a variety of securities to help cover its 2011 capital spending.

According to documents filed with the MPUC, Xcel plans to pay for the capital projects with short-term debt and multiyear credit agreements, a $300 million long-term debt issue in the third quarter and $190 million in cash.

Paul Johnson, managing director of investor relations and assistant treasurer for Xcel Energy, said 2011 is the first of several $1 billion-plus capital spending years.

Despite regulatory emphasis on the CapX2020 high-voltage transmission lines – a 700-mile network of transmission lines intended to provide reliable energy delivery – Johnson said spending in 2010 and 2011 has concentrated mostly on wind farms.

Development of the 200-megawatt Nobles Wind Farm in southwestern Minnesota will end in 2011. It will be replaced by spending to develop the Merricourt Wind Project in southeastern North Dakota starting this year, Johnson said.

The 150-megawatt Merricourt Wind Project is expected to cost $450 million, according to Johnson. That could be reduced by a one-year extension of renewable energy tax credits approved by Congress in late 2010, which allow Xcel to qualify for a 30 percent investment tax credit if the wind farm is finished by Dec. 31, 2011.

Large line items to install wind energy this year are accompanied by spending on Xcel’s Monticello nuclear plant, which is being “up-rated” to increase nuclear power generation.

Fuel costs for Xcel’s Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear reactors make up $100 million of Xcel’s 2011 capital costs, Johnson said.

Maple Grove-based Great River Energy this week filed a certificate of public convenience and necessity with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for a $450 million project that’s part of the CapX2020 system of transmission lines.

Randy Fordice, a spokesman for Great River Energy, said the proposed Wisconsin portion of the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse project follows the January 2010 filing with the MPUC for the Minnesota section of the 345-kilovolt transmission line.

Depending on the final route selected, the Minnesota portion of the Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse line will be 80 to 90 miles long. After crossing the Mississippi River, the Wisconsin portion of the line will run between 40 and 55 miles to La Crosse, Wis.

The Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse transmission line is owned by Dairyland Power Cooperative, Rochester Public Utilities, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, WPPI Energy and Xcel Energy.

While Great River Energy’s filing is a significant step in the process, neighbors and conservation groups have opposed the project. Power line opponents claim the high-voltage transmission line across the Mississippi River will harm wildlife.

“I’d even use the term ‘fiscally irresponsible’ [for them to] move forward with this. It’s so questionable,” said Jeremy Chipps, a member of the Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF).

“Who needs new taxes when these guys are so out in left field about who needs new energy?” said Chipps, who lives near the Mississippi River in La Crescent, Minn.

CETF and other groups will have ample chance to voice their opinions.

Permits and approvals for the line’s proposed river crossing near Alma, Wis., are required by the several state and federal agencies involved.

They include the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Rural Utilities Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Assuming regulatory approval, the transmission line is expected to start construction in 2013 and deliver power in 2015.

In northern Minnesota, Fergus Falls-based Otter Tail Power Co. and Duluth-based Minnesota Power plan to spend substantially less in 2011.

Cris Kling, a spokeswoman for Otter Tail, said her utility’s 2011 capital budget totals just $60 million. That’s made up of $45 million for overall repair and maintenance and $20 million for the 230-kilovolt transmission line between Bemidji and Grand Rapids.

The Bemidji-Grand Rapids line also covers turf served by Minnesota Power, which has scheduled capital project spending of $169 million in 2011.

Amy Rutledge, a spokeswoman for Minnesota Power, said the utility plans to complete the second half of its Bison 1 Wind Energy Center in North Dakota in addition to investing in the CapX2020 projects.

Rutledge said project details of Minnesota Power’s spending will be contained in a 10K form scheduled to be released in mid-February.

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