OpEd: CETF’s Deb Severson on Energy

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on June 20, 2014 @ 7:20 am

In today’s La Crosse Tribune:

Deb Severson: Energy innovation key for our future

Children approach life with an inquisitive sense of wonder and a thirst for learning. They dream of what can be, and they challenge us by unceasingly asking “why?”

When the fifth-grade students at Evergreen Elementary in Holmen researched and weighed in on whether to build the Badger-Coulee transmission line, the result was more than “an admirable exercise in getting kids to think …” as Tom Still wrote in his column in the June 13 Tribune. It was an inspirational lesson for us all.

Rather than accept that battles waged about high-voltage regional transmission lines are between not-in-my-backyard challengers and straight-line engineers, or coal vs. renewable energy, we should get curious, educated and involved.

Rather than accept that more transmission will improve the reliability and environmental impact of our grid, we need to relentlessly ask “why?” Especially when the stakes are so high.

• Why, when energy efficiency is the fastest way to save money and reduce our carbon footprint and it increases grid reliability, is there disproportionate focus on transmission? Is it the fact that utility profits decrease when energy efficiency and ratepayer-owned renewables increase that suppresses viable alternatives?

• Why do for-profit transmission companies make over 50 percent operating income when the average for all U.S. industries is 17 percent? Is this why Xcel Energy and American Transmission Co. waged a federal battle over who should own the Badger-Coulee line?

• Why sacrifice our lands when there are better ways? Why risk human, animal and avian well-being by ignoring research on the risks of UV, ionizing radiation and EMF emitted from high-voltage lines?

Keeping the lights on is a compelling marketing message. But, the reality is, we’ve known since the 1970s that transmitting centrally generated electrons to distant load centers — be they renewable or fossil fuel based — presents national security and reliability issues.

Recognition of these shortcomings led to a 2012 conclusion by the then Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the nation’s electrical future may well belong to distributed generation such as rooftop solar rather than central power stations and generators far from demand.

Which takes us back to wondering:

• Why build more centralized generation and more wires to send it even more places when it is unreliable, inefficient and vulnerable?

• Why perpetuate a business model that rewards utilities based on increased consumption and increased infrastructure, which is incompatible with the urgent need to address climate change?

• Why not evaluate all alternatives equally for their carbon reduction, reliability and cost savings benefits? Would doing so lead us down another path?

Like the telephone industry that fundamentally changed and improved due to wireless technologies, the electrical industry has the unprecedented opportunity to transform in a user-friendly way, and create jobs, save money and address global climate change along the way.

But it requires a new path.

It also requires that we scrutinize strategies to extend the “old way,” as regional transmission does for centralized generation. And it requires recognizing that fossil fuel interests and utilities benefit from centralization, and they’ll work to protect this.

Encouragingly, many states are taking the fork in the road by implementing aggressive energy efficiency goals and removing barriers to ratepayer-owned renewables. We ask the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to do the same for Wisconsin.

In Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission and innovative utilities are proving solar can be a better option than natural gas when all costs and benefits are accounted for. California and some East Coast states are investing in local self-sufficient “micro-grids,” enabling reliability, resiliency and significant carbon reduction.

Following the lead of the fifth-graders finds us wishing for more innovation and thoughtful consideration of all our options in Wisconsin and wondering which way is best for their future. Rather than accept status quo, we heed the inspirational words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Deb Severson is a member of Save Our Unique Lands and the Citizens Energy Task Force.

Today — Black River Falls, WI on the Badger Coulee line

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on June 9, 2014 @ 10:22 pm


Hey, it’s the No CapX 2020 and Citizens Energy Task Force table at the Comfort Inn in Black River Falls!  Here’s what we had for handouts:

Scoping Handout_1


Transmission Lies – published in Grist 2/3/2009

Deb Severson and I spent the day chatting with everyone who came in the door, making sure they had our info in hand as they went to the PSC table for the gory details and then into the meeting room.  It’s an “open house” format, which I don’t think much of because people need to get a sense of what others are concerned about.

Here’s one thing I’m concerned about, the root of it all — marketing of coal.  Jim & Tim, are you paying attention?  Some things that jump out that aren’t hard to document — remember, today it’s not as easy to document because it’s been a while — it’s not like we’ve got the p. 29 list of generation waiting from the “Southwest Minnesota/Southeast South Dakota Electric Transmission Study Phase 1” (see p. 29-30 of the only version I could find online) back when Beth Soholt (Izaak Walton League) and Matt Schuerger (ME3) asked a bunch of us to sell out, nor do we have the 3,341 of coal in MISO queue during the CapX 2020 Certificate of Need proceeding (but remember, this WAS in the record, and ALJ Heydinger, now PUC Chair, was more interested in a settlement and paid little attention to the coal):

NoCapX 2020 Info Request to MISO Answers 3-8

5. Slide 7 refers to 3,741MW of coal/gas generation in MISO queue.

a. Of that 3,741MW, how much is coal?

3,441 MW.

b. Identify MW of coal in MISO queue, state by state for MN, SD, ND, IA and WI,
as of the date of your response to this question?


As of May 5, 2008, the cumulative total, by state, of the filed queue coal projects
that are proposed are:

MN: 726
SD: 600
ND: 1255.8
IA: 1378
WI: 280

During that hearing, I had one of those brain farts and asked Jeff Webb, MISO, about wind in queue in Illinois, and he grinned, and pulled a yellow post-it out of his pocket, and replied, “There’s 7,XXX MW of wind in queue in Illinois.”  DOH!

And don’t forget this:


Anyway, here’s what’s up with coal right now:

And remember, it all started with Ligite Vision 21, the furthest back direct evidence of the Midwest “Coal on the Wires” where they looked at what it would require for transmission to enable new coal, it’s the earliest I’ve been able to find:

Lignite Vision 21 Transmission Study

This is the line that ends with that 2001 Split Rock-Lakefield Jct project, the one where “Coal on the Wires” asked us to sell out, the one where “negotiations” were ongoing during the hearing road show in SW Minnesota, the one resulting in even worse deals (lower SE corner):



George Nygaard stopped in for some serious conversation with PSC staff, and look what he brought with today:


The DIORAMA!!!  Yes, it’s scale, the height, but the base of the pole is a bit off.  Really, that’s accurate?  Yes, it was checked and double checked by WisDOT’s Fasick and his magic tape measure.

Repartee all day with PSC staff, even a snort or two, and poor Jim Lepinski got an earful about transmission from George, and a promise of a hearty comment for the record.  Deb and I enjoyed some verbal ju jitsu with Xcel’s Tim Carlsbaad, who really shouldn’t say, “Are you an engineer?”  Well, no, Deb’s not, and neither are you, nor am I, though as for me, I must admit growing up reading Consulting Engineer, playing with a geiger counter, and touring coal plants and dams didn’t hurt.  And of course sex trafficking is the perfect background for Xcel PR and selling transmission, just like truckdriving is perfect for law, but, well… you don’t have to be an engineer to see the transmission trajectory.  In the meantime, George is waiting for Hilly to show up on the scene now that he’s back with “the Company!”

Tomorrow, Tomah:


Oh, the Environmental Impact Statement — DOH, that’s what it’s all about.  Comments are due on the scope, those details, what all you think it should cover, due on July 15, 2014.  Send Comments to marilyn.weiss@wisconsin.gov and be sure to reference PSC Docket 05-CE-142.  Remember, the more specific the better.  A descriptive paragraph would be good, and feel free to attach any documents that you think they should be familiar with.

July 15 — get to work!!

Center for Rural Affairs toadies for transmission

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on June 2, 2014 @ 5:21 pm


Once again, Center for Rural Affairs is sticking their nose in where it does not belong, this time in Wisconsin, this time on the Badger Coulee transmission project.  We’ve noticed them nose under the tent on the ITC Midwest MN/IA transmission line.  They’re really getting around…

But it’s what they get paid to do, promote transmission, so they’re doing it, and misleading people along the way.  Earlier today, I heard and saw that the Wisconsin Eye moderator dropped their name twice… why would that be… and they used a map they said was from Center for Rural Affairs, but if you look at the map, it’s Xcel and ATC:


Anyway, here’s the article that got me going:

Power Struggle: Public Input Sought on Badger Coulee Transmission Line

And so I fired off a missive to the writer and editor — we shall see…

What’s wrong?

From the article:

Lu Nelsen, energy policy associate for the Center for Rural Affairs, said the Badger Coulee line is one of several projects in the Midwest currently seeking to improve energy transmission for the region.

He described the project as a much-needed update to the state’s electronic transmission grid and a step forward for renewable energy.

“The main focus of this project is to improve reliability and cut down on congestion while also opening up transmission for new energy development,” he said.

Among the concerns raised by those in opposition of the project are how it will affect farms and rural landowners in its path.  (Nelson and CfRA do NOT speak for those in opposition to the project, they are promoting the project.)

“People are concerned about ‘What does this mean for my land, for the protected areas around me?’ ” Nelsen said. “That’s one of the reasons why these meetings are so important, because it’s the one chance to clarify where those concerns may lie.”

Nelsen said the developers would obtain easements for land the line would cross and the land underneath the lines could still be farmed or used for grazing.

Nelson repeatedly states that this is “the one chance” or “last chance” to speak out, and that is just plain false (see “last chance” subject heading below).  This Wisconsin project is just beginning, and the meetings now are scoping for the environmental review.  There will be another group of meetings for public comments on the DEIS, and another group of meetings as the “public hearing.”  Either he doesn’t know enough about the process to be accurate, or is trying to mislead people.  Either way, he’s not an authority.

The most important factoid jumping out is that both ITC Midwest’s MN/IA project and the Badger Coulee project are MISO “MVP Portfolio” projects, projects that are for a private purpose, that of moving electricity out of the Dakotas across the Midwest to points east.  It is not about wind, it is about surplus coal generation that is searching for a market beyond our “Zone 1″ area, and because the electric industry is now market-based, if it can be theoretically shipped anywhere, it can be sold anywhere.  MISO’s witness Chatterjee admitted last week at the ITC evidentiary hearing that this was so:

That was significantly mitigated by the Mid-MISO MVP and the out-year analysis MISO identified an increase as stated in my direct testimony of over 2,000 megawatts of transfer capability.  Again, that is important because that is a transfer capability analysis where an objective function is defined.  You’re trying to move capacity resources or, capital P, capital R, planning resources.  These are baseload units that you’re moving from local resource zone one for utilization in all of the other MISO local resource zones for every load to meet their local — to meet their  planning reserve margin requirement.

So you know how much you need and you know what you’re transferring, you’re transferring  capacity resources, baseload units, and wind also,  but wind has a very small capacity credit value.   And we identified a significant benefit there.  So  that is an important context.

Transcript, p. 94-95, May 19, 2014(emphasis added) (available at public libraries in the project area, YES!!!!!!).

As this Badger Coulee transmission project goes forward, I hope that people are more cognizant of the interests represented.  Many of the PSC docket intervenors, such as Wind on the Wires, Fresh Energy and Izaak Walton League, together with their attorney Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy receive significant grants to promote transmission, from RE-AMP and others such as the Energy Foundation/McKnight.  Other Badger Coulee docket intervenors paid to advocate for transmission and RE-AMP participants include Clean Wisconsin, Citizens Utility Board and Environmental Law and Policy Center.  RE-AMP_Foundations_Master_Grant_List.  Does Center for Rural Affairs, and do the others, disclose their transmission advocacy financial obligations?


Again, this missive below was sent by Center for Rural Affairs to many conservation, environment and preservation organizations last week, “Subject: Last Chance to Weigh in on WI Transmission Line” which is flat out false, this docket is just ramping up and there will be many more opportunities to weigh in (click for larger version):


Wisconsin Eye on Badger Coulee transmission

Filed under:BadgerCoulee - Wisconsin,Wisconsin — posted by admin on @ 10:53 am

Check it out!  Citizen Energy Task Force’s Deb Severson, one of five panelists, discussing the Badger Coulee (MVP5 – 1/2 of MVP 5) transmission project:

Newsmakers – Badger Coulee Transmission Line

This Badger Coulee 345 kV transmission project, like the ITC Midwest MN/IA transmission line, is one of the MISO MVP Portfolio projects, it’s the La Crosse to Madison part of MVP 5.  The docket is ramping up, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission has accepted it as complete, and environmental review scoping meetings are being held right now across western Wisconsin.  In order to achieve the “benefits” touted for the ITC Midwest MN/IA project, MVP 4 and MVP 5 are both needed, and costs and “benefits” of not just these projects, but all 17 MVP projects must be weighed, because we’ll be paying apportioned costs for all of them.

Promoters are again touting it as “renewable” but we know that’s not the point of this MVP 5 or the portfolio MVP projects…

Deb Severson did a good job reminding people that this transmission plan goes way back, that the North Dakota lignite interests have been promoting transmission as the way to get coal out to the market.  CETF’s got the history, and it’s all about coal.

From Beth Soholt:

We’ve worked hard to take the “or” out of it, that’s it’s not central station or distributed, it’s some of both…  You can’t “energy efficiency” your way out of the need for transmission.  If you produce in a certain area and you can’t use the energy locally, it needs to be distributed and delivered, you need a road to market for that wind…

In other words, they’ve not done anything to get that coal off the wires to make room for wind.  And of course it’s all about siting.  “If you produce in a certain area…”  Why would you encourage siting wind in an area that’s stranded?

Rob Danielson, SOUL, is raising costs, and that this is an interstate layer on top, a major energy investment over these 40-50 years.  What do we want from this investment?  Energy planning should be done on the basis of ratepayer preferences.  Utilities area driven by profit and not consistent with what we want to do…

1) People want to keep their expenses low and want to reduce energy use.

2) Prefer energy efficiency and community investments.

3) Energy self-sufficiency.

Using a Center for Rural Affairs map for routes.  ????  Dropping their name twice?  Why aren’t they using the application or other filings?  But wait — the map used by CfRA is labeled as one from ATC and Xcel, so what’s up with that gratuitous plugging of Center for Rural Affairs?


Deb did a great job explaining that the MVP projects are about “baseload,” yup, we did get that in the record.

Beth on regional market, utilities can access lower cost power, market provides access (and we know lower cost power is coal).  She later says, “there is no market for coal.”  WHAT???  And the coal plants that we have now are not transmission constrained…  WHAT???

ICF – Independent Assessment MISO Benefits

Rob does a good job addressing that it IS binary, where other types of generation are used, then coal will go down.  Are there net carbon emissions reductions with Badger Coulee?  Nominal without Badger Coulee, and WITH Badger Coulee carbon emissions will increase!

Speaking of Center for Rural Affairs, here’s the kind of thing they’re sending out — note they bill it as “Last Chance to Weigh in on WI Transmission Line.”  NO, it’s not the last chance, in fact it’s just the beginning.  I hate it when promoters misrepresent things like that!  Click the missive below for a larger version:



image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace