Friday marked the first time the public has been able to take a look at what's shaken out of PATH's consolidated FERC case (ER09-1256-002 & ER12-2708-003).

Docket No. ER09-1256 deals with the three Formal Challenges to PATH's formula rate filings for rate years 2009, 2010 and 2011 that were made by West Virginia ratepayers Keryn Newman and Alison Haverty.  The Challenges alleged that PATH recovered millions of dollars that it was not entitled to.

Docket No. ER12-2708 deals with PATH's recovery of $121M of stranded capital investment in the PATH project.  In 2008, FERC granted PATH the right to recover all prudently-incurred expenses for the project in the event it was abandoned for reasons beyond PATH's control.

These two very different PATH cases were consolidated by FERC in 2012, forever joined at the hip for settlement and hearing purposes.

Earlier this year, the settlement phase ended and a procedural schedule for hearing was set.  Under the procedural schedule, PATH filed its Initial Direct Testimony in May of this year, supplemented in July.  Intervenors filed their Direct and Answering Testimony on Friday.  The public, trial-type evidentiary hearing is scheduled to begin on March 24, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

Here's what was filed Friday:

Direct and Answering Testimony of Keryn Newman and Alison Haverty, along with testimony from their witness Doug Kaplan.  Files are labeled, and the narratives are files number 2 of 20, 16 of 20, and 17 or 20.  The other files are supporting exhibits as mentioned in the testimony.  This testimony deals exclusively with the Formal Challenges in Docket No. ER09-1256.

Testimony and Exhibits of FERC Trial Staff.  Witnesses Miller and Deters deal with the Formal Challenges, while witness Keyton testifies on PATH's return on equity percentage that is part of the abandonment docket.

State Agencies and Joint Consumer Advocates filed testimony.  The testimony of witness Lanzalotta is with regards to the amount PATH should recover in the abandonment docket, while witness Woolridge deals with PATH's return on equity in the same docket.  The third JCA witness questions the prudence of PATH's legal expenses.
 
 
Spending the better part of my week playing lawyer, paralegal, and legal secretary, all at the same time, wasn't much fun.  However, I was thoroughly cheered to observe from time-to-time when I came up for a sanity break, that Clean Line Energy Partners was having a MUCH WORSE week than me!  :-)

All three of Clean Line's active projects took it in the shorts last week, in one form or another.  This is the direct result of overwhelming, forthright and committed opposition in every state through which it intends to build its Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express and Plains & Eastern Clean Line projects.  And to get there, it's taken an enormous amount of dedication, organization and hard work on the part of some savvy opposition leaders
, and the help of everyone involved to raise this issue in the public dialogue.  So, pat yourselves on the back, everyone!

First, let's look at the Rock Island Clean Line project.  It STILL has not been approved in Illinois, despite Clean Line's project leader telling newspapers it had been.  It was on the Illinois Commerce Commission's agenda on Thursday, but, once again, the Commission kicked the decision down the road
for another day.  Clean Line had been telling folks that once it got approval in Illinois, it would file for its franchise in Iowa.  Even though approval is still up in the air (and the proposed order of the ALJ did not recommend eminent domain authority at this time, along with a whole bunch of other hurdles that make the project much less viable) Clean Line went ahead and filed its applications in Iowa.

The Preservation of Rural Iowa Alliance says that despite having land agents active in the community for the past year, the company still has only secured easements for 15% of the property it needs to build its line.

Clean Line said the company will need to cross approximately 1,500 separate land parcels in Iowa to reach Illinois. So far, about 200 owners have signed agreements. That’s about 15 percent of the total needed.

Eric Andersen, another Clean Line opponent from Grundy County, said the small number of willing sellers so far will be one of the arguments opponents use against the plan.

“This is a private investment firm that’s building a private transmission line and they want to use eminent domain on 85 percent through some of the best farm land in the world. That’s a huge deal,” Andersen said.
RICL is asking the Iowa Utilities Board to grant it eminent domain authority to condemn and take 85% of its route?  Never going to happen.  Usually, holdouts that require the use of eminent domain are few and far between.  Never 85% of the landowners targeted!  If these landowners continue to dig in their heels (and I expect they will) this project will be political poison.

Turning now to Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project, evidentiary hearings got underway before the Missouri Public Service Commission this week.  In addition to the various landowner groups and others opposing the project, the staff of the MO PSC has also adopted a position opposing the project:
“As staff has set out in the position statements it filed last Friday, it is staff’s view that the evidence in this case will not show that the transmission line and converter stations are needed, economically feasible, or will promote the public interest in Missouri,” Williams tells the Commission.
But Clean Line has an ace up its sleeve that it thinks will "turn a no into a yes."
Clean Line turned to the Department of Energy and Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The little-known provision would enable DOE to work through a federal power marketing administration and, in certain instances, condemn property required for easements.

Clean Line filed a similar application with DOE for the Grain Belt Express project in 2010.

In a testy exchange during Monday’s hearing in Missouri, Agathen, the landowners’ attorney, repeatedly asked whether Clean Line would pursue federal approval of the Grain Belt Express project if denied by the Missouri PSC.

Skelly said Clean Line’s application for Section 1222 authority for Grain Belt Express is still pending at DOE but inactive. And the company would exhaust efforts to persuade state regulators to approve the project before turning back to the federal government.

“We would look at the no and figure out a way to turn it into a yes,” he said.
And this brings us to the third Clean Line project, its Plains & Eastern, that got thoroughly pummeled last week during a joint State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committees and joint Agriculture, Forestry, and Economic Development committees of the Arkansas legislature.  Arkansas Rep. John Hutchinson's interim study presented a parade of experts, state agencies, and concerned citizens who spoke against the project for several hours.  The Clean Line representative in attendance never spoke, but did manage to smirk at opportune moments.  Because, you know, that arrogant little frat boy behavior just makes people want to love you, right Clean Line?  The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports:
"Game & Fish Commission Director Mike Knoedl said that bird deaths in the area would be 'astronomical' because of the high lines and towers, some as tall as 200 feet."
Clean Line probably doesn't care who opposes their project in Arkansas though, since the company is planning to have the U.S. Dept. of Energy step in to take land from Arkansans under the federal Energy Policy Act, Sec. 1222.  Unless Arkansas fights back... stay tuned!

 
 
A settlement proposal was made public today by parties to the West Virginia Mon Power/Potomac Edison base rate case.

The settlement must be approved by the WV PSC before it becomes final.  The PSC has scheduled a hearing on the settlement for Nov. 7 at 9:30.  You can watch the webcast here.

The settlement was crafted during negotiations between the company, the staff of the PSC, the Consumer Advocate Division, WalMart and the WV Energy Users Group (a group of energy hog industrials).  The PSC Commissioners (what few we have left) did not have a hand in crafting this settlement.  They will have a hand (or a rubber stamp) in approving it.

So, what happened?  They agreed to a rate increase effective Feb. 25, 2015.  The press release yammers on about how much this will cost the "average" customer (23 cents per day, $6.90 per month, $84.40 per year).  Mr. & Mrs. Average Customer use exactly 1,000 kwh of electricity every month.  Your usage isn't so neat, so therefore your increase will vary. 

But, it's not the rate increase the company asked for.  It's less.  The original proposal was going to increase Mr. & Mrs. Average Customer's bill something like $15/month, so consider the proposed settlement to be slightly less than half the amount requested.

The company had asked for a total of $151M annual increase.  The settlement amount is $62.5M annually.  This amount includes a $15M (1.45%) increase in base rates and a new $47.5M surcharge for vegetation management. 

The vegetation management surcharge bears further examination considering the company asked for a $48.4M surcharge for increased vegetation management.  The company has been receiving a separate amount for vegetation management that has been included in the base rate for years ($28M).  What this settlement does is remove that amount from the rate base and combine it with an additional amount for increased vegetation management to create the new vegetation management surcharge.  This new surcharge is subject to filings in the first, third and fifth year in which the company must true up actual expenditures to the amount collected.  Gone are the days of FirstEnergy collecting millions for "vegetation management" that it never performs (and contributes to more severe and prolonged storm outages).  Now you'll actually get the vegetation management you pay for!

Back to the base rate increase:  Included is $46M of 2012 storm costs, amortized over a 5-year period, without earning a return (about $9M/year).  Once the 5 years is up, this is gone forever (unless we have another storm disaster in the meantime). 

The stipulation regarding the $60M FirstEnergy wanted to collect for closed power plants Albright, Rivesville and Willow Island sounds like Yoda wrote it.
For the unrecovered the companies may account, undepreciated investment.  
Balances in the 2012 deactivated power plants (albright, rivesville, and willow.  
Island) in any manner the companies deem appropriate, with gaap in accordance.  
And regulatory accounting.  Not, the parties agree that such accounting does.  
To recover these costs or amortization expenses in future rate establish a right.  
Proceedings, and this joint stipulation shall prevent the parties from nothing in.  
To recovery of these taking whatever position they deem appropriate in relation.  
Amounts in future proceedings.  Herh herh herh.
I'm not sure what it means.  Probably nobody else knows either.  Except maybe Yoda.

The companies must increase the amount they contribute to the Dollar Energy Fund that assists low income folks with their outrageous FirstEnergy electric bills.  FirstEnergy's increase is $150,000/year.  In addition, the company must continue to "contribute" an additional $250,000/year that they recover from ratepayers.  So, essentially, YOU are paying this extra and FirstEnergy is getting the credit for the "donation."  Isn't that special?  Betcha' didn't know that FirstEnergy provided charitable giving coordination services like that!  Of course, how much of any of this is "giving," when all the money ends up right back in FirstEnergy's pocket?

This one is kinda confusing.  Even Yoda can't help. 
The proposed increase to the customer charge for residential and small commercial
customers shall remain at $5.00 per month.
The increase shall remain at $5.00 per month?  We're already paying $5.00 per month.  Does this mean that we're now going to pay $10.00 per month, or does this mean that there will be no increase in this fee?  Clarity needed.

The company is allowed to establish a regulatory asset for its expected EPA compliance plans at Harrison and Ft. Martin.  This amount will be deferred (sit on the balance sheet uncollected and earning interest) until a future rate case
.

The company will earn a 9.9% ROE, down from the requested 11%.  When combined with the return on debt of 5.15%, and adjusted by the company's capital/debt ratio, the total return will be 7.36%
.

The company will receive an additional $1,074,174
per year to read every meter every month going forward.  This is down from FirstEnergy's requested $7.5M yearly cost to read meters monthly. Now the trick is going to be making sure the company actually DOES the required readings!  No skimping now, we'll be watching!

So, what do you think?  Did your advocate cut you a good deal in this rate case?  You can submit comments to the PSC here.


 
 
It's been a long time since I last got a google news alert for "Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline."  So long, in fact, I'd forgotten I even had those search terms set to notify.  But, just in time for Halloween, the PATH zombie reared its ugly head and I got a notice last week that some right-wing think tank had published a paper where those terms were mentioned, America’s Electricity Grid: Outdated or Underrated?
And what did the author have to say about PATH, more than three years after its death?  How has history treated this stunningly costly failure of "independent" planning?
Despite identification of areas in which transmission capacity is limited, a “not in my backyard” (or anyone else’s, in some cases) attitude toward new transmission line siting has resulted in cancellation or delay of some new transmission lines.

For example, in 2011, PJM cancelled the proposed Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) project, a 275-mile transmission line that would have run through West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland to deliver electricity into Northern Virginia. Although the line was designed to improve reliability in eastern PJM, changing forecasts of electricity demand growth and intense opposition to siting the line led to the project’s cancellation.
It's the opposition that will be remembered, not individual analyses and the fine line that supposedly determined this white elephant was needed.

Hey, remember this?  PATH's talking heads insisted that opposition had nothing to do with PATH's cancellation.

But, history says it did.

While the article's conclusions are pretty screwed up, it does a nice job explaining the bulk power system and federal regulation thereof.  It's a good "backgrounder" for folks new to the transmission world.  Think about how much more reliable our system would be though, if we brought back the "islands" of the past and operated them as smaller parts of the bigger system (aka "microgrids").
Beginning in the late 1920s, electric utilities began to integrate their operations to improve reliability and reduce costs. Previously, utilities had operated as “islands,” meeting the demand for electricity solely from their own generating plants. To ensure reliable service, this meant building extra generating capacity to keep in reserve, in case unexpected problems caused their plants to shut down.[2] By integrating their operations, utilities could provide more reliable service without building as much backup generating capacity. In essence, if a generating plant at Utility A suffered a forced outage, one of Utility B’s generators would be available to ensure the lights stayed on. The concept is similar to diversifying a financial portfolio. Instead of investing everything into just one company’s stock, buying multiple stocks, bonds, and other investments reduces the risk of a sudden financial loss.
Microgrids that can be islanded from the larger system at times when the larger system fails (remember Superstorm Sandy?) can continue to provide power for necessary services.  And if microgrid "A" suffers a forced outage, it can borrow from microgrid "B", or "C," or "D," or any other nearby microgrid.  Relying on just a handful of generators and long-distance transmission lines creates parasitic load pockets with no native generation.  Those folks have nowhere to turn in case of emergency.

Building more transmission lines isn't the answer.  The answer is a more democratic electric grid system that benefits consumers and local communities, not gigantic, investor-owned utility holding companies.
 
 
If you were looking forward to watching the PSC evidentiary hearing via the Commission's webcast like I mentioned on the radio last week, change of plans.

There won't be an evidentiary hearing. 

As I also mentioned, there will be a rate increase.  It's only a matter of how much.  The Staff of the Public Service Commission, your Consumer Advocate, Wal-Mart and the Energy Users Group have reached a settlement with FirstEnergy "in principle."  The exact amount of our rate increase is still under wraps.

If FirstEnergy is settling, it probably means us ratepayers are gong to take it in the... wallet.
 
 
An Indiana utility is apologizing to its customers after failing to read electric meters for months, then issuing gigantic "catch up" bills when finally performing an actual meter read.

Remind you of anyone?

Vectren's excuse is that its meter reading contractor simply quit reading meters at the end of its contract period when it knew it would not be receiving a new contract.  The company says that the 400 customers affected can pay their gigantic bills in smaller increments, without interest.

The company has "put a formal communications plan in place."  This means they're spinning and trying to downplay the true magnitude of the problem.

The Courier Press says the problem is much bigger than Vectren has admitted.
The Courier & Press began investigating this issue after receiving a call from a local business owner on Friday concerned that her bill had tripled without warning.

Vectren initially said that more bills than usual were estimated over the summer because the company switched meter reading contractors, and it was changing the readers’ routes.

“Without getting into specifics, there are challenges that happen with any contractor transitions,” Hedde said Tuesday morning. She added that the anonymous caller’s high bill was likely atypical.

“I don’t want to give the impression that that is normal,” Hedde said. “She is experiencing something hopefully that is an anomaly.”

But response to a Courier & Press’ Facebook post showed the issue was widespread. Hundreds of people replied to the post with stories of bills that were several times what they expected.
The Courier & Press characterizes the problem as affecting "thousands" of customers.

The Indiana Regulatory Commission doesn't seem to see this as a problem.
But mistake or no, customers whose bills were underestimated must pay up, said the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

“They are responsible for it,” said Natalie Derrickson, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. “At this point, if a customer feels like their bill was estimated and they have larger bills than they were expecting, their first step should be to contact Vectren. If the customer feels like the issue is not resolved, they should contact us.”
This utility failure probably couldn't come at a worse time of year for struggling families.  No Christmas this year, kiddies, Mommy & Daddy have to pay the electric bill instead!

Seems to me that if the problem was caused by a contractor that did not live up to its legal obligations, then Vectren and/or the affected customers have a clear course of action.  Unless... maybe Vectren isn't being honest about this and is scapegoating a contractor they no longer do business with?

You'd think the Indiana Regulatory Commission would at least want to get to the bottom of this.

At any rate, the Courier & Press wants to know what the people think -- Should utilities be permitted to estimate customers’ bills for periods longer than one month?

As we found out here in West Virginia when thousands of customers were abused in exactly the same fashion by FirstEnergy, meters should be read every month.
 
 
Another article about the security risks posed by our reliance on centralized generation and long-distance transmission by Rebecca Smith at the Wall Street Journal.  Rebecca just hasn't been the same since she had a little talk with former FERC Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff about the attack on a California substation back in 2013.  Wellinghoff has been doing the Paul Revere about the stunning insecurity of our electrical grid since the incident, and it looks like he's now recruited Rebecca to carry the torch.
Fear that utility companies remain vulnerable to hackers, terrorists and natural disasters has the Pentagon pushing construction of independent power grids at military bases across the U.S. ...
We should all be pushing for construction of independent power grids in our own neighborhoods, instead of more centralized generation (whether renewable or otherwise) and long-distance transmission.  Gigantic, interconnected infrastructure is incredibly vulnerable simply because so many people rely on it.  While independent power grids and local generation could also be subject to the same mischief that makes an interconnected grid vulnerable, if there are enough micro grids operating independently, there would simply be too many of them to effect large scale blackouts, whether purposefully or accidentally.
Increasingly, the Pentagon wants power from its own sources.

“The endgame is to be able to survive if the grid goes down,” said Paul Orzeske, who recently retired as president of Honeywell Building Solutions, the company helping build Fort Bragg’s microgrid.

For years, experts have recommended the U.S. military seek independence from commercial utilities. “Our grid is old and it’s reliant on technology that’s outdated,” said Michael Wu, energy program director for the Truman National Security Project & Center for National Policy, a Washington think tank.
But regional grid planners. regulators, and utilities all insist that we need more -- more generators and more transmission -- in order to make the system "reliable."

Someone's lying here.

Is a small, independent, diverse system more reliable?

Or is a large, interconnected and redundant system more reliable?

Can't have it both ways.  Personally, my vote is with the military when it comes to reliability and safety. 
 
 
I don't know about you, but I've had my fill of election season annoyances.  The commercials, phone calls, mailings, and facebook accusations can stop now.... I've already voted.

I hope you do a little research on the candidates before you vote!  Campaign finance reports are a good place to start:
Ohio-based FirstEnergy has been a busy little bee supporting certain candidates for state offices.  But some candidates didn't take FirstEnergy's dirty money.

In the 16th District Senate race, Senator John Unger hasn't received any FirstEnergy money.  However, his opponent, Larry Faircloth took $1000 from FirstEnergy's PAC.  Faircloth also took money from Roach Oil (that benefits from high eastern panhandle gas prices). Campaign finance aside, Faircloth is also responsible for the 35% hike in Berkeley Co. sewer fees.  Developer Faircloth filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate developer impact fees for increases to sewage capacity.  Due to loss of the impact fees, the sewer district had to file for an 11% rate increase.  Larry Faircloth's personal financial interests seem to trump the interests of the citizens he wants to represent.  I have reservations about whose interests Faircloth would serve if elected.

In the 67th District Delegate race, Delegate Stephen Skinner's campaign finance reports are FirstEnergy-free.  That's not too surprising, since Delegate Skinner has taken an active role in criticizing FirstEnergy's bungling of estimated bills and recent rate increase request.  His opponent, Pat Rucker, lists a $500 contribution from FirstEnergy PAC on her campaign finance report.  Which candidate do you think would do more to protect you from FirstEnergy's money-grubbing, shoddy business practices?  I didn't see Pat Rucker at the recent FirstEnergy rate increase hearings.  She must support the company's request for a 17.2% hike in your electric bill.

In the 66th District Delegate race, Mountain Party candidate Danny Lutz has received no funding from FirstEnergy.  However, his opponent, Frontier's representative Paul Espinosa seems to be pretty cozy with the FirstEnergy bigwigs in Akron.  In addition to the obligatory $1,000 donation from the FirstEnergy PAC, FirstEnergy's boy also got another $1,000 donation from FirstEnergy CEO Tony Alexander.  You'd think the Alexander family would have better things to do with their money than to toss it away on a West Virginia Delegate's race?

A vote for Unger, Skinner or Lutz is a vote AGAINST FirstEnergy!  Don't forget to make yours count!

 
 
Section 1221 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the U.S. Department of Energy to complete a transmission "congestion study" every three years.  The congestion study is supposed to lead to designation of "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors" (NIETCs).  A transmission project sited in a NIETC is subject to "backstop" permitting authority by FERC if a state fails to act on a permit application within one year, or lacks authority to issue a permit.  It's a three-step process to federal electric transmission siting and permitting that should NEVER be allowed to happen.

DOE's initial attempts ran into a buzzsaw of opposition that ended up in two separate federal court decisions that effectively castrated Sec. 1221.  But, hey, that Sec. 1221 mandate still exists, so DOE must still go through the motions.

And that's what they did, albeit 2 years past the 2012 due date. The DOE secretly opened their "draft" congestion study up for public comment (never mind the contradiction of a secret opportunity for public comment, we won't dwell there). 

The public commented -- nearly 100 comments panning the report and warning against designation of any new NIETCs were submitted by interested "stakeholders."

But, a handful of industry players also found out about the secret study and submitted comments.  So, let's take a look!

Utilities SDG&E, Southern Co., Duke, and Florida Municipal Power Agency filed self-serving comments about their own service territory, either pointing to "congestion" where they want to build lines, or cheering a DOE finding that there was no congestion in their region.

Regional transmission organizations Southwest Power Pool, NY-ISO and ISO-NE
also filed comments.  The general gist of their comments was that RTOs already have robust transmission planning processes and power markets that make DOE's congestion study a frivolous and unnecessary duplication of effort.  And then they resorted to redline editorial corrections.  I did get a kick out of ISO-NE's correction to add offshore wind to DOE's narrow resource focus:
Page 49:
The best onshore renewable wind resources (i.e., those with the highest potential
capacity factors) tend to be located far from load and sometimes in areas with less
transmission than desired for effective resource development. The best offshore renewable wind resources, however, are often located close to load centers, as is the case with New England.
Bravo, ISO-NE!

Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the investor-owned utility lobbyist organization, told DOE to forget all about that NIETC stuff and to spend its time finding ways to streamline transmission permits on federal land.  Yes... that's just what's missing from America's National Parks -- more and bigger transmission lines!  Just think how sweet the Grand Canyon would look with a couple of huge transmission lines spanning it at its widest points!  And wouldn't Old Faithful be much, much cooler if it erupted into an overhead transmission line and created even more steam and maybe an electric arc or two?
  Yeehaw.... idiots!

WIRES, the transmission developer's lobbying group just seems to want to get its paws on a whole bunch of congestion data.  If DOE can't find or easily gather this data for WIRES's use in proposing competitive transmission projects, then WIRES thinks the DOE should pursue new legislation to obtain it, no matter how much providing this information burdens other utilities.


The American Wind Energy Association and Next Era Energy want DOE to allow transmission developers to do their own "congestion studies" and apply to DOE for designation of narrow "corridors" just wide enough for projects they want to build.  That's just ridiculous!!  A version of this bastardization of Sec. 1221 was proposed several years ago, and was promptly disposed of by Congress.  Not a good idea!  DOE doing this study and designating corridors is bad enough without throwing wide the door to self-serving "studies" and corridor requests inspired, not by need for new transmission, but by corporate greed.

And speaking of corporate greed, I've saved the best for last.  As expected, our heroes at Clean Line Energy just couldn't be left out of a process where it may benefit by using the government as its own personal land agent to take what it isn't granted by individual states.

Clean Line makes a bunch of obsequious comments that really don't do much but promote its own projects and display their self-centered stupidity. 

Clean Line made much of this diagram:
All of Clean Line’s projects originate in a Type 1 Conditional Constraint Area, identified by DOE in the 2009 National Electric Transmission Congestion Study (“2009 Congestion Study”) and illustrated in Figure 2. The 2009 Congestion Study defined a Type I Conditional Constraint Area as, “an area where large quantities of renewable resources could be developed economically using existing technology with known cost and performance characteristics – if transmission were available to serve them.” The 2009 Congestion Study also noted, “Construction of major new transmission projects would enable development of thousands of MW of new renewable generation” within these areas.
Hey, guess what, Clean Line?  The 2009 Congestion Study is no longer in effect and, in fact, was one of the straws that broke the DOE's back in Federal court.  Issuing a new report filled with old data is probably not a good plan.  And, hey, look at Figure 2 -- wind in those Type II Conditional Constraint Areas is conveniently located near all the big load centers that YOU are trying to reach with YOUR Type I projects.  Thanks for bringing up and illustrating just how worthless your projects really are!

Clean Line tells a HUGE lie:
Clean Line has engaged with thousands of local stakeholders in eleven states, where its five projects are actively under development.
Sort of sounds like Clean Line is having a great time making new friends, right?  In fact, Clean Line has inspired record opposition in every state it's entered, where "thousands of stakeholders" have spoken out against the project and participated in opposing Clean Line applications in the state permitting process.  Landowners routinely complain that they were not engaged by Clean Line, but found out about the project from neighbors and friends.  Clean Line's "public participation" process has been one gigantic failure.  Failure to properly consult with all stakeholders was a problem in DOE's last NIETC designation, and it's also the reason Clean Line is facing record opposition.  Ignoring landowner stakeholders does NOT nullify them, it only enrages and engages them!

Clean Line rumbles on about demand for its projects from unbuilt wind generators.  Note, Clean Line doesn't mention any interest from load serving entities, most likely because there isn't any!  And Clean Line's price for "all in" delivery includes the production tax credit that expired LAST year. 

Clean Line even elects itself to speak as a champion for you struggling farmers!

These are real projects, many of which have land leased for wind turbines from
farmers seeking new sources of income, as drought has made traditional farming livelihoods uncertain. Wind power represents new hope for drought-resistant income and economic development in regions of the country otherwise struggling with diminishing populations.
Looks like you all should give up farming and sit on the porch, watching the turbines turn and counting your cash.  Where's our food supposed to come from?  Make sure Clean Line gets at the end of any buffet line...

The next step is for DOE to "review and consider" comments on the draft study, and to prepare and release a final version of the study.  Watch this website, because it's likely to be another secret public process from our taxpayer-funded U.S. DOE!
 
 
Clean Line Energy Partners thought their idea for a series of gigantic HVDC overhead transmission lines to transport wind power across the U.S. was cutting edge back in 2009.  Now it's just more of the same old, same old centralized generation/long-distance transmission network that is fast being overtaken by locally-sourced renewables and distributed generation.

It should come as no surprise that Clean Line investor and executive Jayshree Desai tried to downplay the viability of distributed generation at the recent American Wind Energy Association Finance Conference in New York, while singing the praises of industrial-scale wind farms and thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission.  It's where her bread is buttered, after all.
Large-scale wind farms paired with new transmission lines -- not distributed solar generation -- is the cheapest way for the US to decarbonise its electricity system, claims an executive at Clean Line Energy Partners.

Jayshree Desai, executive vice president at Clean Line Energy Partners, also believes that over the next few years the cost curve for wind will bend downward more rapidly than for PV, after solar’s spectacular price decline in recent years. Large-scale wind farms paired with new transmission lines -- not distributed solar generation -- is the cheapest way for the US to decarbonise its electricity system, claims an executive at Clean Line Energy Partners.
But Clean Line won't "decarbonize" anything because wind is a variable resource that cannot be depended on as baseload power.  Due to its variability, any power injected by a "clean" line must be backed up with baseload fossil fuel generators that must constantly ramp up and down to equalize variable generation with load.
Desai thinks her Plains & Eastern Clean Line will be under construction in 2016 (if only the U.S. Department of Energy steps up to hammer resistant landowners with federal eminent domain).  I don't think so.  Vocal, forthright opposition to the line in Arkansas and Oklahoma is just now taking off, after many years of Clean Line keeping its plans secret from affected landowners, and it's going to be a rocky road ahead.

When the question was posed at the conference whether we need new, big transmission projects in the face of distributed generation's meteoric rise to prominence, Desai was quick to criticize distributed generation and tout her projects at prices much lower than the company has admitted in other venues.  Clean Line keeps lowering the "expected" price of its product at the same time it is experiencing costly delays and setbacks in the permitting arena.  This doesn't compute.  The cost of building these lines just keeps getting more expensive by the day, and the lines themselves are Clean Line's only product.  Clean Line's estimate of the price of wind generation that it will not own or construct keeps falling as the cost of building the line rises.  Desai claims as yet unbuilt wind will be priced at $.02 kWh, however this price includes the federal production tax credit, which expired last year and has yet to be renewed.  The production tax credit is a taxpayer financed subsidy for big wind of 2.7 cents per kWh, therefore Desai's real generation price without the expired credit is 4.7 cents per kWh.  She believes that Clean Line can ship that wind to several midwest injection points for 2 cents per kWh.  That's a total of 6.7 cents/kWh delivered.  And that's delivered to a midwest substation -- if you're not there, you're going to need to pay additional transmission costs to get it to your load.

Someone needs to check her math -- just a few years ago, Clean Line's capacity cost estimate was 2.5 cents per kWh.  How did it get cheaper when the company has added several years of permitting snafus, thousands of resistant landowners who have dug in their heels for a contentious eminent domain battle, and a whole bunch of promises to use certain "local" vendors to build its projects in certain states, instead of putting labor and supplies out for bid to get a better price?  It doesn't add up.

Desai thinks distributed solar isn't viable:
“I’m a supporter – I have nothing against [distributed generation]”, she said, speaking this week at the AWEA Finance conference in New York. “But the math is just not right.”

Desai argues that the true cost of integrating distributed solar into the grid is not being accounted for – a line increasingly employed by electrical utilities keen to curb the growth of rooftop solar.

“It’s heavily subsidised, not only at the federal level, but at the transmission and distribution [level too],” she says. Given those subsidies, “of course DG looks so good”.
Well, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black by Miss Production Tax Credit Subsidy?

When is the true cost of integrating midwest utility-scale wind gong to be accounted for?  What is the true cost to each individual landowner crossed?  How many farm businesses will face increased costs and lower yields once Clean Line has tossed them a one-time market value land payment to "compensate" them for their losses in perpetuity?  How many homes will lose value due to proximity to a "clean" line?  How much future land use potential is foregone once a "clean" line is in place?

The argument about grid fees for distributed solar does need to be solved, though.  And it's not going to be solved if both sides continue to dig in their heels.  DG fans who insist there is no value for them in being connected to the distribution system should try disconnecting for a day or two.  The value of being connected to sell excess and purchase power when needed would quickly become obvious.  Those who claim they should be charged nothing for using the distribution system as their own personal battery back-up need to get over themselves and get this done.  They're only hurting themselves the longer this debate goes on. 

But not everyone at the conference agreed with Desai.  In fact, her opinion pretty much got shredded.
Kris Zadlo – a multi-decade veteran of the transmission sector, and currently vice president at Invenergy – believes distributed generation will “take a big bite” out of the electricity transmission sector in the years ahead.

Zadlo says that being able to cut the transmission portion out of the picture entirely is a big advantage for distributed generation. “And it’s not only about cost, but also about control,” he says.

“We can’t underestimate that what DG allows people is their own peace of mind, control of their own destiny. What sort of premium is that worth to the customer?”
Indeed!  Let's cut transmission out of the picture.

I wonder what effect this debate had on Desai's efforts to find new investors for her Clean Line projects?  At the ICC evidentiary hearings in Illinois last year, it was revealed that Clean Line would be pretty much out of money by now.  Who's willing to dump more money down the Clean Line rat hole?  The company is making little progress, in fact, they seem to be regressing on a permitting level, with prospects of future eminent domain authority in several states getting dimmer by the day.

I guess we can't blame Jayshree for letting her desperation show.