CapX 2020 — It’s over, it’s done, all but the cost recovery

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CapX 2020 at Highway 61 south of Wabasha

Monday, they had their CapX 2020 Love Fest at the Hampton substation, and I didn’t even get an engraved invitation.  It’s a depressing point in time — 12 years on this project — and they got all they wanted, in some places not where they wanted it, but it’s up, and so many people affected.  Having it routed somewhere, anywhere, is what they cared about, and supposedly it’s now “in-service,” though I wonder.  Is it time to have a big bonfire of all the boxes of files?

This was about the Minnesota portions, but South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin is permitted as well, the superhighway from the coal fields of the Dakotas to Madison and beyond.  Yeah, I could have camped out and crashed the party, but I had another commitment, so couldn’t spend the day hanging out waiting, watching.  Maybe I should have…

capx_hrl_energized_20160926_113428-medLeft-to-right: Mark Kotschevar, Rochester Public Utilities; Dave Geschwind, Southern MN Municipal Power Agency; Teresa Mogensen, Xcel Energy; Chris Kunkle, Wind on the Wires; Ben Porath, Dairyland Power Cooperative; Priti Patel, MISO; Tim Noeldner, WPPI Energy. From CapX Press Release

How much was “Wind on the Wires” (f/k/a Izaak Walton League) (and many other orgs?) paid for their promotion of transmission?

In the press:

STrib (is it really $2.1 billion?  Any recent reports?):

Last Minnesota leg of $2.1 billion electricity mega-project done

From WKBT (video here):

CapX2020 transmission line completed

And Wisconsin Public Radio:

Collaborative Utility Project Connects Electric Transmission From South Dakota To Wisconsin

Rochester Post-Bulletin:

Drone patrols the power line

It’s up and running — get out those gauss meters and check it out.

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CapX 2020 at Hwy. 61 looking towards the Mississippi

Put on your waders — CapX 2020 Report!

CapXCap1

It’s out, the report from U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs about CapX 2020, headlining it as a “Model for addressing climate change.

Transmission Planning and CapX 2020: Building Trust to Build Regional Transmission Systems

Oh, please, this is all about coal, and you know it.  This is all about enabling marketing of electricity.  In fact, Xcel’s Tim Carlsbad testified most honestly that CapX 2020 was not for wind!  That’s because electrical energy isn’t ID’d by generation source, as Jimbo Alders also testified, and under FERC, discrimination in generation sources is not allowed, transmission must serve whatever is there.  And the report early on, p. 4, notes:

Both North and South Dakota have strong wind resources and North Dakota also has low-BTU lignite
coal resources that it wants to continue to use. New high-voltage transmission lines are needed to
support the Dakotas’ ability to export electricity to neighboring states.

See also: ICF-Independent Assessment MISO Benefits

Anyway, here it is, and it’s much like Phyllis Reha’s puff piece promoting CapX 2020 years ago while she was on the Public Utilities Commission, that this is the model other states should use:

MN PUC Commissioner Reha’s Feb 15 2006 presentation promoting CapX 2020

So put on your waders and reading glasses and have at it. Here’s the word on the 2005 Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell – Chapter 97 – Revisor of Statutes that gave Xcel and Co. just what they wanted, transmission as a revenue stream:

CapX_Xmsn2005

And note how opposition is addressed, countered by an organization that received how much to promote transmission.  This is SO condescending:

HumphreyCapXReport

… and opposition discounted because it’s so technical, what with load flow studies, energy consumption trends, how could we possibly understand.  We couldn’t possibly understand… nevermind that the decreased demand we warned of, and which demonstrated lack of need, was the reality that we were entering in 2008.

XcelPeakDemand2000-2015

And remember Steve Rakow’s chart of demand, entered at the very end of the Certificate of Need hearing when demand was at issue???  In addition to NO identification of axis values, the trend he promoted, and which was adopted by the ALJ and Commission, has NOT happened, and instead Xcel is adjusting to the “new normal” and whining that the grid is only 55% utilized in its e21 and rate case filings.  Here’s Steve Rakow’s chart:

rakownapkindemand

Reality peak demand trajectory was lower than Rakow’s “slow growth” line, in fact, it’s the opposite from 2007 to present.  Suffice it to say:

ManureSpreader

Xcel’s bogus demand forecast basis for CapX

arrowdownRemember Xcel’s CapX 2020 peak demand projections of 2.49% annual increase?  How wrong can they be?  And how unjustified was their basis for a Certificate of Need for CapX 2020?  And how are they held accountable for those gross misrepresentations?  But now it’s time to pay, and who will pay?  This is why the rate case in progress, PUC Docket 15-826, is so important.

On the other hand, I love it when this happens… Xcel Peak Demand is again DOWN!  There’s a trend, and it’s called decreased demand.  Demand has yet to exceed the 2007 peak, and now it’s 8 years…

XcelPeakDemand2000-2015

Here’s the Xcel Energy SEC 10-K filed a couple days ago:

2015 – Xcel Energy 10-K

Is it any wonder they want to get away from a cost based rate a la their “e21 Initiative” scheme?  Particularly now that the bill for CapX 2020 is coming due and their newest rate case (PUC Docket GR-15-826) is now underway?

And the specifics, and note how they inexplicably forecast a 2016 peak of 9,327, which is based on a “normal weather conditions” assumption:

2015-Xcel Peak Demand Chart

Barr Engineering Complaint Before PUC Oct 4th

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This Thursday, the PUC will be taking my the NoCapX 2020 Complaint against Barr Engineering of Conflict of Interest… again.

CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO TUNE IN LIVE!

PUC staff recommendation is “no jurisdiction” and not action by PUC other than saying “no jurisdiction.”

PUC Staff Briefing Papers – October 4, 2012 Meeting

Here’s the filings on this — and no word from Barr Engineering on this, and they’re the respondent, together with Dept. of Commerce.  Not a peep from either of them.

Conflict of Interest Complaint Against Barr Engineering

Staff Briefing Papers for Barr Engineering Complaint, Sept 13, 2012 Meeting

Letter and Amended Complaint – September 10, 2012

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!

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Transmission going up in SW Minnesota (Fair Use – from mpr.org)

As Xcel tries to build its CapX 2020 wonderland, and as people are being served with Petitions for condemnation of their land for easements for this transmission buildout, people are starting to stand up and holler:

BUY THE FARM!

Buy the Farm, that little statutory out for landowners who don’t want anything to do with a transmission line, it gives them the option to say to the utilities, “NO, you’re not getting an easement, you’ve got to BUY THE FARM!”  Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4.

Seems a number of landowners on the St. Cloud-Monticello part of the Fargo-Monticello CapX 2020 transmission line were telling Xcel/GRE a/k/a “CapX 2020 Applicants” what to do with their condemnation petitions, and so the utilities started playing hardball.

First, the bad news — the important newsif you want them to BUY THE FARM, you have 60 days, and no more. That’s 60 days when you’re first served with a Petition for Condemnation.  The people who were late were tossed out of court.  Moral to this story?  You snooze, you LOSE!  Please don’t snooze.

When a landowner is faced with condemnation, here’s a typical sample of what they get:

Utility’s Response to Buy the Farm Election by Landowner – March 1, 2011

Look at what they’re “asking” for – what a load:

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response-list

So based on this, the landowners response was an eloquent PPPPPFFFFFFBBBBBBBBBBBT!

Respondents Stice and Shores Reply to Petitioner’s Response to Landowner Election of Buy the Farm – April 18, 2011

Oh, we’re ramping up here… now for their Memorandum:

Respondents Stice and Shore Memorandum of Law – April 18, 2011

And the utility attorneys argue that no, they don’t HAVE to move, they don’t get anything…

Utility Memo Arguing No Relocation, that Ch. 117 doesn’t apply

And the Court says…  (…drumroll …):

Wright County Order – July 13, 2011

Short version:

  1. One party’s motion for minimum compensation and relocation benefits granted, Minn. Stat. 117.187 and 117.52 apply to 216E.12.
  2. Another party’s motion relocation assistance, minimum compensation and loss of going concerned DENIED, stating there’s information to determination if their property is commercially viable.
  3. Another party tossed out, you snooze, you LOSE, there’s a 60 day window for Buy the Farm, and no more.  Close doesn’t count.
  4. Fourth party delayed until they have more time for Discovery and have a hearing later this month.

READ THE DECISION, really, this is probably the MUST READ of the year.

GRE & Xcel hustling for $$$$$

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Apparently Great River Energy and Xcel Energy are outlooking for money.  Gee, I wonder why?  I remember the snorts and hoots that broke out in the room way back during the CapX Certificate of Need hearing when they admitted to presenting their CapX 2020 financing dog & pony show to Lehman Brothers.

As for GRE, from Monday’s article in Finance & Commerce:

For example, GRE’s 2009 revenues fell $42.1 million to $787.8 million at the same time the utility was paying to develop a coal-fired plant in North Dakota and helping develop the CapX2020 system of transmission lines with 10 other state utilities.

Xcel just made an SEC filing that shows some creative efforts:

The primary purpose of the Plan is to provide our common and preferred shareholders as well as new investors with a convenient and economical method of purchasing our common stock.  Once enrolled in the Plan, you may reinvest cash dividends and, through optional cash payments, purchase additional shares of common stock from time to time or at regular intervals.  Although we expect the Plan to appeal to many shareholders, it is entirely optional.  A secondary purpose of the Plan is to enable us to raise additional capital by selling newly issued shares of our common stock under the Plan.

“Secondary purpose of the Plan…”  (click the quote for the full filing)  “Secondary purpose…”

Yup, uh-huh…   …WHAT… EVER!

Here’s the full article from Finance & Commerce about GRE’s capital raising efforts:

Great River Energy to sell $450M in mortgage bonds

Posted: 4:35 pm Mon, October 18, 2010

By Bob Geiger

Faced with declining power-usage revenues and rising utility-plant costs, Maple Grove-based Great River Energy (GRE) on Monday issued $450 million in taxable first mortgage bonds to meet costs and pay down debt.

The mortgage bonds are intended to fund capital spending for the utility’s power generation and transmission as well as paying off $325 million of GRE’s $2.4 billion outstanding debt, said Susan Brooks, GRE treasury director.

“It’s part of our long-range plan to meet member costs in the most cost-effective manner,” said Brooks, who expects bond pricing to be set today.

The mortgage bond sale is the second such transaction in 2010 by GRE, which in April announced it would sell $106 million in tax-exempt first mortgage bonds issued by McLean County, N.D.

It’s not unusual for utilities to sell mortgage bonds to help make ends meet at a low cost. Such financing makes sense because GRE is making additions to its system and paying for generation and transmission improvements in the wake of the recession.

For example, GRE’s 2009 revenues fell $42.1 million to $787.8 million at the same time the utility was paying to develop a coal-fired plant in North Dakota and helping develop the CapX2020 system of transmission lines with 10 other state utilities.

Fitch Ratings assigned an A- credit rating to the $450 million mortgage bond sale. Fitch noted that, “while GRE’s debt level remains a concern, (it) has been effective in managing the higher debt loads, even in what has been a difficult operating environment.”

Background information on GRE’s mortgage bond offering from Fitch stated that GRE is working to lessen its debt-load by paring its five-year capital spending plan by $350 million.

GRE serves more than 645,000 residential and small-commercial customers through 28 member cooperatives. The utility maintains 3,647 megawatts of generation capacity, of which 2,751 megawatts is owned by GRE.

Additional capacity is expected to come online in 2012 when Spiritwood Station, a coal-fired plant near Jamestown, N.D., begins operation.

The start-up of Spiritwood, which has a peaking capacity of 99 megawatts, was delayed until early 2012 earlier this year because plans for an ethanol plant to use steam from the nearby coal plant failed to materialize.

Therese LaCanne, GRE spokeswoman, said Spiritwood also will provide steam for a Cargill Malt plant in the industrial park.

Of GRE’s 2009 power generation, 78 percent was coal-fired, with the remaining 22 percent coming from 7 percent renewable energy, 1 percent natural gas and 14 percent other energy sources.

Combined with the planned firing up of Spiritwood and wind energy contracts, GRE projects it will have adequate capacity to meet its member needs beyond 2020.

The utility projects compounded average annual peak load growth of 1.4 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to Brooks.

CapX 2020 North Dakota in the news

Filed under:Bemidji-Grand Rapids,Brookings Routing Docket,Cost Recovery,Fargo-St Cloud,Hampton-Alma-LaCrosse — posted by admin on October 7, 2010 @ 10:45 am

There was a very strange report from North Dakota – somewhere on the CapX 2020 Fargo-St. Cloud road show last week, they were asked about the permitting status of that line in North Dakota, and we got some blather that wasn’t very specific.  And look what pops up yesterday,  North Dakota “endorsing” transmission projects “in neighboring states.”  EH?  SAY WHAT?

I’ve put in a call to the ND PSC to get some primary documentation, will update if anything turns up.

Found the docket on line – it’s a request for an “Advance Determination of Prudence” and the filings are here:

NORTH DAKOTA CAPX 2020 ADVANCE DETERMINATION OF PRUDENCE FILINGS

The article, in full below, covers actions of the PUC on Wednesday, and so must be based on their meeting yesterday, which is online:

AGENDA MEETING OCTOBER 6, 2010 – AUDIO

ADMIN MEETING – OCTOBER 6, 2010

In the meantime, you can check out their August 4, 2010 Worksession where CapX was discussed.

AUDIO OF WORK SESSION – AUGUST 4, 2010

It’s worth some time to hear their discussion of the Brookings line.

THEY CONFIRM THAT MISO WAS DISCUSSING THE EXCESS OF POWER, THAT THERE’S “25% MORE POWER IN THE GRID THAN THEY NEED.”

Here’s the news article that popped up today:

Oct 6, 10:43 PM EDT


ND regulators endorse power line improvements

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota utility regulators on Wednesday endorsed three power line transmission projects in neighboring states that they said should provide safeguards against blackouts on the region’s electric grid.

Agreements with Xcel Energy Inc. and Otter Tail Power Co. also should help North Dakota ratepayers avoid paying the projects’ development bills right away if they are never constructed, members of North Dakota’s Public Service Commission said. Regulators said they were confident the power lines will be built.

Xcel, which is based in Minneapolis, and Otter Tail, of Fergus Falls, Minn., asked the North Dakota PSC to review the transmission line projects and determine whether they were a prudent investment. The review will make it easier for the two utilities to win regulators’ future approval of electric rate increases to pay for them.

The commissioners endorsed a new, 250-mile transmission line from Fargo to Monticello, Minn., northwest of Minneapolis; a 68-mile line between Bemidji, Minn., and Grand Rapids, Minn.; and a 150-mile line between Minneapolis-St. Paul and La Crosse, Wis.

Separately, they gave preliminary approval of a 200-mile line from eastern South Dakota to an area near Hampton, Minn., south of Minneapolis.
(more…)

Deal done on CapX Bemidji-Grand Rapids?

Filed under:Bemidji-Grand Rapids — posted by admin on August 27, 2010 @ 9:43 am

It looks like a deal is in the works to get the CapX 2020 Bemidji-Grand Rapids transmission line through the Leech Lake Reservation:

Documents outline power line talks between Leech Lake, utility officials

Posted: 5:21 pm Thu, August 26, 2010
By Bob Geiger

A group of five utilities is negotiating with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe to buy right-of-way for a 230-kilovolt power line – connecting Bemidji and Grand Rapids – across the tribe’s reservation.

Fergus Falls-based Otter Tail Power Co., the lead developer on the transmission line, is among five electric utilities named on a draft settlement agreement with the Leech Lake Band.

Finance & Commerce obtained a copy of the draft settlement from a source close to the situation. An Otter Tail Power spokeswoman earlier this week conceded that the company was in talks with the tribe, but said the talks did not represent formal negotiations.

But in addition to a draft agreement between the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe tribe and the five utilities, the papers obtained by F&C include an addendum that describes proceedings as “confidential settlement negotiations.”

The draft agreement and addendum also encourage utilities to hire tribe members to provide security and, when appropriate, purchase project materials from the tribe.

(more…)

Motion DENIED in CapX Bemidji-Grand Rapids

Filed under:Bemidji-Grand Rapids — posted by admin on August 17, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

Seems the ALJ doesn’t think it’s a problem to have the Final EIS come in and that the public not be able to comment on it.  Seems the ALJ doesn’t acknowledge that in the Brookings case the record was expressly left open to allow comments on the FEIS, and that comments were allowed in after the record closed, both in Brookings and in St. Cloud-Monticello.   He says that if we want to comment on it, we can address that in “Exceptions” directly to the PUC.  Well, we’ve seen what happens with specific and numbered Exceptions – MOES disregards them, says they’re not in compliance with the rules (EH?) and the PUC never learns what was proposed.

Here’s the order:

Denial of NoCapX & U-CAN Intervention or Extension of Comment Period

And there are other and bigger fish to fry right now, like a Supplemental EIS on the Brookings route…

Motion to Intervene/Extend Comment Period filed

Filed under:Bemidji-Grand Rapids — posted by admin on August 9, 2010 @ 8:31 am

Today NoCapX 2020 and United Citizen Action Network have filed a Motion to Intervene in the CapX Bemidji-Grand Rapids case.  Why?  Because the comments of the EPA show that there are serious problems with the EIS and that issues raised may well be determinative of the route, as they were in the Brookings case, where similar info came out way too late to take into account in routing, leading to a bogus routing process and remand back to the ALJ.

READ EXHIBIT A – EPA COMMENTS BELOW ON THE BEMIDJI-GRAND RAPIDS EIS – OH – MY – DOG!

Looking at the EPA comments, and of course, what else is there from other agencies who must be as concerned, it seems MOES isn’t able to put together an EIS that can pass federal scrutiny, that is up to federal NEPA standards.  Is it any wonder that they don’t want to do environmental review with RUS on the CapX Hampton-LaX (Alma) line?

Here’s what we filed this morning (busy morning!):

Motion to Intervene in CapX Bemidji-Grand Rapids routing docket

Affidavit of Overland – unexecuted – will file notarized SOON!

Exhibit A – EPA Comments – April 15, 2010

Exhibit B – Brookings – USFWS April 30, 2009 Comments

Exhibit C – Brookings – USFWS November 30, 2009 Comments

Exhibit D – Brookings – DNR November 30, 2009 Comments

Exhibit E – Brookings – DNR February 8, 2010 Comments

Exhibit F – DOT November 30, 2009 Comments

Exhibit G – Commerce/MOES Hampton-LaCrosse Scoping Decision


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace