Xcel applies for North Dakota CapX line

Filed under:News coverage,Reports - Documents — posted by admin on December 15, 2007 @ 6:15 pm


It’s all connected.  Xcel applied for the North Dakota section of CapX 2020, though all the reports say that “they don’t know where it will be routed.”  Oh, OK… right…  But for anyone who wants a hint, why, there’s always the above CapX 2020 map!  And where are there coal mines and coal plants in North Dakota?

From the Jamestown Sun:

Xcel Energy applies to build North Dakota powerline

By DALE WETZEL Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press – Saturday, December 15, 2007

Xcel Energy has notified state regulators of plans to build part of a new power transmission line in North Dakota, although its final route in the state hasn’t been determined.

North Dakota’s Public Service Commission agreed Friday to allow Xcel, which provides electricity to Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot, to shorten the amount of time it must wait to apply for the power line’s North Dakota location.

Xcel is part of a group of utilities seeking to build four new transmission lines in Minnesota. One would run about 250 miles from a Fargo substation to Monticello, Minn.

The Fargo line, and a separate power line from Bemidji to Grand Rapids in Minnesota, “will provide much-needed transmission support to the Red River Valley in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota,” Darrin Lahr, an Xcel siting supervisor, said in a letter to the commission.

Susan Wefald, the PSC’s president, said the utilities have not yet established the power line’s North Dakota route. The line could stretch about 50 miles in North Dakota, or only a few miles if the power line crosses into the state from Moorhead, Minn., Wefald said.

Lahr said Xcel expects to file a proposed power line route next summer or fall. The utilities that are supporting the project want its final segment, from Alexandria to Fargo, to be finished in 2015, Lahr’s letter said.

Other utilities that are part of the Monticello to Fargo power line project are Great River Energy, of Elk River, Minn.; Otter Tail Power Co., of Fergus Falls, Minn.; Minnesota Power, of Duluth, Minn.; and Missouri River Energy Services, of Sioux Falls, S.D.

And it’s essentially the same AP piece elsewhere.  The Grand Forks Herald:

Xcel Energy applies to build portion of powerline in North Dakota

And the same on KXMT in ND, and WKBT in LaCrosse, WI.

Here’s the flip side — transmission costs $$$, and that will hit ratepayers,.  The current rate request would increase rates by 14%, which is, as an Xcel spokeswoman noted, “substantial.”  Here’s the report in the Dickinson Press:

ND regulators prepare to review Xcel electric rate increase

The Grand Forks Herald:

Xcel asks N.D. regulators for rate increase 

And from the Minot Daily News:

Electric bills rising to pay cost to upgrade infrastructure

By JILL SCHRAMM, Staff Writer jschramm@minotdailynews.com

People will have a chance to comment on Xcel Energy’s proposed rate increase of 14 percent during public hearings early next year. The proposal amounts to an increase of $7.60 a month for the user of 750 kilowatt-hours a month.

Xcel Energy customers in the Minot area can expect an 11.5 percent increase in their electricity bills next February to finance upgrades in power plants and transmission lines.

Xcel Energy filed a rate request with the North Dakota Public Service Commission Friday that seeks a 14 percent increase, and by law, the company can impose an interim increase while the PSC reviews its request. Xcel Energy plans to set an interim rate on Feb. 5 that will amount to an 11.5 percent increase in customers’ bills.

For a customer using 750 kilowatt-hours monthly, the interim increase amounts to $7.20 a month. If the PSC approves final rates that are lower than the interim rates, the company will refund the difference to customers.

Commercial and industrial users would see their bills increase by the same percentage. Commercial and industrial users make up 14 percent of Xcel’s customers but account for 64 percent of sales.

Xcel Energy serves more than 85,000 electricity customers in Minot, Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks and surrounding communities, including Burlington, Berthold and Des Lacs.

Xcel Energy is seeking $20.5 million in additional revenue.

The company wants to rehabilitate aging power plants to expand their operating lives, increase their output and reduce their effect on the environment. Transmission systems that haven’t had an upgrade since the 1970s also are due for improvements.

Mark Nisbet, North Dakota principal manager for Xcel Energy, Fargo, said updating the company’s existing plants is more cost effective than buying power from other sources to meet its growing energy demand.

“We think we will have a better handle on our future by taking care of our own generation needs,” he said.

The increased capacity gained in the rehabilitation of four existing plants will be equal to one new plant, he said.

Improvements at the 504-megawatt Allen S. King plant near Oak Park Heights, Minn., include steam turbine replacement, steam generator repairs and modifications, coal handling upgrades and the addition of state-of-the-art emissions control equipment. The project will increase the capacity of the plant by 60 megawatts, or nearly 12 percent, and greatly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other particulates.

The High Bridge Plant, built in 1924 near downtown St. Paul, Minn., will be converted from coal to natural gas. Electricity output will increase by 272 megawatts, enough to supply almost 300,000 typical homes. At the same time, air emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulates will be reduced by more than 99 percent and mercury will be eliminated.

Xcel Energy will refurbish its two nuclear plants to give them another 20 years of operation and ensure safety and reliability. Equipment improvements will increase the capacity of the reactors by 246 megawatts.

Xcel Energy reports that some of its transmission projects are already under construction and will go on line in 2008. In addition to increasing reliability, the transmission line improvements will increase access to new sources of electricity, including renewable energy.

The proposed rate change represents the first time since 1992 that Xcel Energy has requested an increase in its base rate.

Electric bills consist of two components: a base rate and a fuel charge. The base rate reflects Xcel Energy’s operating costs, while the fuel charge represents the cost of the electricity.

Fuel charges change regularly. The upward pressure on fuel costs has increased in the past five years, Nisbet said.

Since 1992, operating costs have increased at an annual average of just 0.7 percent, but combined with rising fuel costs, the overall increase has been about 1.3 percent annually. That remains below the inflation rate of 2.6 percent a year.

The latest increase of 11.5 percent reflects the combined base and fuel charges. Xcel Energy expects fuel costs to increase at about the rate of inflation in the next year.

Although Xcel Energy hasn’t requested an increase in its base rate since 1992, the base rate has had small fluctuations. Slight decreases were made four times, and in 2004 and again in 2005, the state allowed Xcel Energy increases of 1.6 and 1.9 percent for exceeding performance standards related to issues such as customer satisfaction and reliability.

Xcel Energy also was earning less than its authorized rate of return in 2004 and 2005, Nisbet said. Small, performance increases aren’t enough to pay for major capital projects that can’t be put off any longer, he said.

In conjunction with the rate increase, Xcel Energy is rolling out new energy conservation programs that will help customers reduce their costs. The company intends to file a conservation plan with the PSC next month. It will include a push for higher efficiency lighting, modems and other items.

Xcel Energy also will be increasing promotion of its existing conservation programs. People can access conservation tips and information on existing programs at (www.xcelenergy.com) or by contacting the company.

People who do run into trouble paying their energy bills may be eligible for assistance through North Dakota Energy Share. Xcel helps provide funding for the program, administered through Community Action Partnership.

People must be receiving federal fuel assistance and present a disconnection notice from their electricity provider to be eligible. Community Action in Minot reports an average of 250 people take advantage of the program in the seven-country region each year.

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