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.

Commissioner Tony Clark said the three projects are designed to improve electricity reliability in the region, and costs will be allocated among all the utilities’ customers. The projects were considered as a package because “something bad happening in any of those areas could dramatically impact all of eastern North Dakota,” Clark said.

“You have to think of the transmission grid as, really, a regional transmission grid,” Clark said. “It’s not something that is solely supported in North Dakota or in any one particular state.”

The 200-mile South Dakota line got only preliminary approval because the commission wants to revisit whether its primary purpose is to improve the grid’s reliability, or deliver newly generated electric power, Clark said. Those findings will determine how the power line’s costs are allocated among ratepayers.

The same advance approval process recently resulted in a $13.8 million bill for electric customers of Otter Tail and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., of Bismarck, for an abandoned power plant expansion project.

The two utilities were part of a group of companies developing Big Stone II, a proposed 630-megawatt power plant that was to be built next door to an existing plant near Milbank, S.D.

The project was dropped last year, and the Public Service Commission recently agreed to allow Montana-Dakota Utilities and Otter Tail to bill their North Dakota customers over three years for their share of development expenses.

Montana-Dakota Utilities’ residential customers will pay about $1.49 more monthly, utility filings say, while homeowners served by Otter Tail will pay an average of about 62 cents more each month.

Kevin Cramer, chairman of the North Dakota PSC, said the endorsement agreement for the power lines includes safeguards intended to make sure ratepayers don’t get stuck immediately with the development bill for another project that isn’t built.

The utilities could still attempt to recoup their costs by requesting a rate increase. However, that process is slower and more detailed, and involves scrutiny of a utility’s entire operation, Cramer said.

The new power line projects, dubbed CapX2020, are being developed by a group of utilities. They are expected to cost $1.9 billion, with construction beginning in 2012 and lasting three years.

Otter Tail has about 59,000 North Dakota electric customers. It serves the cities of Devils Lake, Jamestown, Wahpeton and a number of rural towns. Xcel Energy has about 87,000 electric customers in Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and some smaller communities.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace