Yes, once more with feeling… this transmission?  It’s NOT needed!

Here’s an article from the St. Cloud Times, good to know they’re following up on the CapX 2020 transmission project and keeping an eye on Xcel Energy.  This demonstrates what we’ve been saying for how long now?  CapX 2020 is NOT needed:

Record hot summer didn’t mean record electricity useage, Xcel Energy reports

In one of the hottest summers on record, Minnesotans should have used a near-record amount of electricity.

But it wasn’t even close.

In fact, electricity use actually fell in the scorching summer of 2012.

According to Xcel Energy figures, projected 2012 sales will be more than 1 percent below those of 2011. Average use per customer will drop by the same percentage.

Why? Strong conservation efforts and a weak economy, according to Laura McCarten, Xcel Energy regional vice president.

Xcel’s million-plus customers are trimming their power consumption — installing fluorescent bulbs, adjusting thermostats, insulating homes and switching to more efficient appliances.

Others — mostly businesses — are cutting back involuntarily. A sour economy has forced businesses to cut back, and some, such as the Ford plant in St. Paul, have closed permanently.

The overall impact of conservation and a slow economy can be seen in Xcel’s power plants. In the past five years, those plants have had to produce 6 percent less power per customer.

The company has a target, specified in Minnesota’s 2007 Energy Act, of cutting anticipated consumption by 1.5 percent every year.

The 1.5 percent is measured according to what energy consumption would have been without conservation programs. The company hit the 1.5 percent reduction target in 2011 and is on track to do it again this year, said Lee Gabler, Xcel’s director of demand side management and renewable operations.

But how can Xcel survive if it continues to reduce its sales? By increasing profits.

“If the company achieves the 1.5 percent reduction target, regulators allow it to earn additional profits by sharing in the additional benefits it has achieved for its customers,” McCarten said.

The company has managed conservation programs for about 20 years and has done many of the relatively easy things needed to conserve electricity.

Lighting, for example, has been a successful area of conservation. Replacing old bulbs with efficient fluorescents is easy and relatively cheap.

But cutting back in the future might be tougher than swapping light bulbs.

“This will be more challenging as time passes,” said Gabler. “Is this sustainable?”

Xcel is planning on it. The company’s targets are evaluated based on a three-year sales average comparing, for example, 2009-11 sales with those in 2013-15. The company has filed its plan for 2013-15, with the same 1.5 percent per-year reductions.

To hit that target, Xcel is going to focus on commercial users, who account for 72 percent of sales.

“The majority of savings come from business customers. We need to look more holistically about buildings, rather than just lighting or cooling,” Gabler said.

But homeowners and renters, too, have a role. “Every little conservation effort helps,” Gabler said.

Conservation efforts have been successful in another area — peak demand. Officials are encouraged to see maximum peak loads flattening.

That is despite the fact that summers are getting hotter. Last summer was the third-hottest for the metro area, according to records beginning in 1871.

Flattening the peaks is critical because Xcel builds power plants to handle the few hottest days. Leveling those peaks of demand means fewer power plants will have to be built in the future.

Bringing down peak demand will depend largely on programs like Saver Switch — which allows Xcel to interrupt power to certain customers during hot summer days, in exchange for lower rates.

A sour economy also helps limit peak demand, said Jack Dybalski, Xcel vice president and chief risk officer. He said the reduced expectation of growth in peaks is especially driven by the collapse of the housing market.

“One of the biggest drivers of growth in peak loads is new homes, rather than just population,” Dybalski said.

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