Lately, I've been bombarded with advertisements from a company named Arcadia Power that claims I can power my home with 100% clean energy, reduce my environmental impact and change the way America consumes its energy. Those are some pretty big claims! Can stock photos of children running through a field of golden grain showing (either real or photoshopped) wind turbines really save the planet? Is this really a "community wind" program? I was intrigued, so I peeled back the wrapper to see what was inside.
After all, the ad encourages me to "learn more," doesn't it? The first place I started "learning more" was by clicking the ad to end up at Arcadia Power's Facebook page
. I asked them where they sourced their renewable energy certificates (or RECs) and how much they paid. After all, I'd like to know what renewable energy projects I'm supporting, and what the mark-up is on the product Arcadia buys and re-sells to consumers. In answer to my question, Arcadia told me I could find the answers to my questions on my "dashboard." But, I don't have a dashboard. In order to get one, I'd have to sign up as a customer of Arcadia. That sort of defeats the idea of caveat emptor, right? So, I asked more questions. And what did I get for my trouble? Arcadia not only refused to respond to my questions, they also removed or hid them from view and banned me from any further postings on its Facebook page. I guess they have decided they don't want me as a customer. Go ahead, check Arcadia's Facebook page out. Be sure to click to see all the comments on its postings -- you can't see them! The vast majority are hidden from public view. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who asked questions Arcadia would rather remain unasked. And, right there, I lost all faith in this company and its promises. But, never fear, I'm quite capable of educating myself to get the answers Arcadia refused to give me. And Arcadia's rudeness and evasiveness gave me the warm fuzzies that further fueled my curiosity!
So, what does Arcadia propose to sell me?
Arcadia Power will buy renewable energy to match your usage, ensuring that an equal amount of clean energy is getting on the power grid.
Arcadia Power buys renewable energy? Or do they merely buy renewable energy certificates?
...we buy Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on behalf of residential and business customers, and sometimes we source our own RECs from projects we directly invest in.
Oh, so Arcadia doesn't really buy renewable energy. It's not an electric company. It buys RECs and resells them to consumers as a way to feel good about offsetting my carbon footprint.
But, does it work?
First, I needed to understand what RECs are. A REC represents the social and environmental benefits of a megawatt hour (MWh) of clean electricity generated. It does not represent the actual energy generated. A clean energy generator has two income streams derived from production of clean energy. One income stream comes from the actual energy produced, which is sold to users on the grid. A second income stream is derived from the sale of RECs. RECs can be sold either bundled with the actual electricity produced, or unbundled from the electricity and sold separately. So, if a company like Arcadia tells me that I'm using the clean energy represented by the unbundled REC, am I really? Didn't someone else purchase and use the actual clean energy produced, without spending additional money to buy the associated REC? I learned that RECs aren't really energy at all.
Why is there any market for created products like RECs? Because utilities are required by law in many states to make sure a certain percentage of the power they purchase for their customers comes from alternative sources. These individual state laws are called Renewable Portfolio Standards, and every state has its own unique version. A utility can meet its state RPS requirement by purchasing RECs. Ahh.... so now I've found the purpose of RECs! So a utility doesn't really have to purchase alternative energy to meet state RPS requirements, it can simply purchase the "social and environmental benefits" of alternative energy? Well, sort of. Many states put some sort of qualifiers on what RECs count towards RPS compliance. Certain types of generators, certain locations for generation. Many states contain a requirement that some or all RECs purchased for compliance must come from sources in the state, in the region, or physically able to be used by the utility taking the credit. Apparently this is what causes unbundling of RECs from the actual energy produced. A utility is only going to buy those RECs it needs for compliance. Therefore, the RECs necessary for compliance in any given state or region are the most valuable. After that, the value of the REC can decrease sharply, because nobody needs to purchase it.
Not all RECs are created equal. In a state with substantial renewable/alternative energy supply, there will be many more RECs created than needed for RPS compliance. There's no real market for these RECs after utilities purchase what they need for compliance. Therefore, they end up in the "voluntary" REC market, where entities purchase them for the right to say they "use 100% clean energy." The intent is that one KWh of dirty electricity used is offset by one KWh of clean electricity generated somewhere else in the world. Some experts contend that this is just wishful thinking and that voluntary REC purchases are nothing but "green washing."
RECs are not offsets and the voluntary green power market does not reduce emissions from electricity generation.
The problem is that green power markets, as currently structured, cannot achieve this goal. They were created on a fundamentally flawed foundation—that buying a virtual attribute can substitute for physically consuming a specific good or service. Further, the incentives of the participants in green power markets—power companies selling RECs, intermediaries marketing them, organizations certifying them, and companies buying them—are aligned, leaving no one with a strong interest in questioning the claims being made.
With these concerns in mind, we are challenging everyone to question their own assumptions about voluntary green power markets.
Nonetheless, claims that voluntary RECs reduce carbon emissions are highly suspect. Their direct effect is not to reduce net emissions, but to shift responsibility for emissions between parties. They only reduce net emissions, if at all, indirectly, by demonstrating demand for clean energy and by providing a modest boost in revenue to the clean electricity industry.
It's weak tea. Buy voluntary RECs if you like, they're cheap as hell, but have no illusions that by doing so you are offsetting your emissions. It's like tossing your supermarket change into a Unicef jar. Whatever, it's better than not doing so, but you're not "curing poverty."
This article talks about "additionality," which is roughly described as the income stream flowing to the generator from the sale of RECs. If the RECs are good quality RECs needed by utilities for compliance, or bundled with the electricity as part of a PPA, then the RECs provide some real value that could help that particular generator be financed and built. However, if the RECs produced by a generator are unbundled voluntary junk RECs that are now selling as low as a buck or two, then the sale of RECs doesn't add the "additionality" that provides a significant income stream to the generator. If you're buying cheap RECs in the voluntary market, you're buying junk that doesn't do a thing to offset your carbon footprint or increase the use of renewables.
So, voluntary junk RECs in oversupplied markets are selling for a buck? Some Texas utilities are giving away free electricity, too, in order to deal with the glut of wind energy produced in the state that peaks at night, when electricity use is lowest.
If an unbundled REC can be purchased for a buck, how much is a company like Arcadia charging to resell it to consumers like me?
We offer a flat-price premium of $0.015 per kWh for 100% Wind Energy in all states except for Oregon and Washington state.
One REC equals 1 MWh of electricity. It takes 1,000 kWhs to equal 1 MWh. Therefore, Arcadia is charging a flat rate of $15 per REC. If Arcadia is buying voluntary RECs for one dollar each, then the company is adding a huge markup by reselling them to you and me. Since Arcadia couldn't or wouldn't answer questions about where it sources its RECs and how much it pays, then I have to assume they are buying the cheapest unbundled RECs they can find from places very far from my east coast home.
I can come to no other conclusion than to think that this scheme sounds like something P.T. Barnum would sell at a trashy carnival. Somebody's getting rich somewhere, and it's not the generator. I don't want to increase my electric bill by any unnecessary amount, so I won't be signing up for Arcadia Power. They can quit bombarding me with advertisements now. Decision's made.
But here's the part that really, really concerns me:
Arcadia Power pays your local utility directly and provides you with a consolidated statement each month that combines your local utility charges with your clean energy from them.
Arcadia Power simplifies your life by providing every customer with automatic billing – either with a credit card or direct debit from your checking account. We provide you with an easy-to-read e-statement every month and you never have to worry about missing a payment!
Arcadia will somehow take over your regulated electric bill and you will no longer receive a bill from your electric provider (don't worry though, I'm sure you'll continue to receive those exciting offers for Exterior Electrical Wiring Protection Plans from HomeServe.) So you will no longer know how much electricity you use, when your meter was read, how many days are in your billing cycle, or receive notification about rate increases and other information from your provider. Instead you'll get a "consolidated" monthly bill from an unregulated company. If you have a billing dispute with Arcadia, your public service commission can't help you. What happens when you have a dispute with the amount your electric company bills you, such as when they neglect to read your electric meter for years on end and then send you a "catch-up" bill totaling thousands of dollars
? Arcadia pays your bill for you each month and then automatically deducts that amount from your credit or debit card, without your authorization. While you could dispute an outrageous bill directly with the power company and set up a payment plan, you lose that privilege once you sign up for Arcadia Power. Your electric company bills. Arcadia pays. Then you pay. Is Arcadia marking up your local electric bill, too? This loss of control of a regulated service makes me very, very nervous. We'll have to see what happens when unregulated companies insert themselves between regulated entities and the consumers they are required to serve by law
. I'm sure there are plenty of unique state electricity tariff provisions related to billing that can be violated by an unregulated entity like Arcadia Power.
Do educate yourself before allowing your carbon footprint guilt to toss spare change in the climate change Unicef jar each month in order to save your soul. Make sure your clean energy dollars aren't going to buy P.T.
Barnum a yacht and his own, private island in the Caribbean.
Remember when the environmental community was a kind and gentle, financially struggling, underdog that Americans could look to for help against corporate energy schemes? That wasn't so long ago, but the environmental community has done a complete 180 in the past seven years to morph into an arrogant, mean-spirited, well-funded, corporate bully. And their halo (and popularity with the American people) has tarnished. Along with their increased funding has come corporate and political agendas that the environmentalists must pursue in order to keep receiving their fat, donated paychecks. No longer does their funding come from the American people through memberships and donations. Now they're big business, living high on the hog while feeding on corporate largesse and political contributions. Big Green has become the enemy of the American people. Just another corporate lackey.
Some of them may be quite unaware of how they're perceived by the rest of us, but the majority must be quietly whispering in shocked tones about the way the public now perceives them as the enemy. In its defense, the environmental community continues to deny there's an issue, and make excuses for its hypocritical choice of which energy projects to support or oppose.
For example, a recent piece in political rag Triple Pundit attempts to compare and contrast the Keystone XL pipeline with the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. This piece fails at the starting gate:
After all, both involve transporting energy from one place to another; both require the taking of right-of-way from property owners; and both will create relatively few direct and permanent jobs once completed.
Those are the important points that Americans care about. The rationalization that follows to explain why those detriments are okay as long as the project has the name "Clean" in its name is nothing but fantasy.
The author is a public relations wonk and "author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes." Well, recycling... that certainly qualifies her to expound on the need for electric transmission and the condemnation of private property for energy projects. Not.
The author claims that Clean Line will provide more jobs than Keystone, and she bases that on information from... Clean Line. Just because Clean Line says it will "source" its components from US companies doesn't mean they will be produced in the US. The author points out that Keystone components will be produced in foreign countries and simply "sourced" in the US. In fact, Clean Line would be fiscally imprudent to sign contracts for components with US companies now, long before any shovel hits the ground. It's common practice to issue an RFP for project components and then evaluate the bids for price, quality and deliverability. If she'd looked underneath the "clean" veneer, she'd realize that Clean Line's promises of US manufacturing jobs are just that... promises. There are no signed procurement contracts for certain components at fixed prices. And there are no guarantees of new jobs.
There's no logic in pretending a transmission project provides more "operations" jobs than Keystone. Maybe if the author knew anything about how transmission lines are operated she'd realize that the "operators" are already employed at regional transmission authorities. One more line in the stable isn't going to create any new jobs. Jobs at wind farms? Sure, the same as jobs that would fill the Keystone pipeline with its liquid gold. No difference.
The Energy Department has not given Clean Line its "Seal of Approval," no matter what Clean Line wants to spout in the media. A decision still has not been made.
Mention of TVA? Why? The TVA has not included Clean Line in its Integrated Resource Plan and has remarked that any possible use of the project is at least a decade away. It isn't about where Clean Line connects, it's about finding buyers for the energy Clean Line transports at the connection points. There are none. Moreover, there are no generators to sign contracts with end users. Who builds a road without any cars to drive on it? We don't build public infrastructure unless there's a need for it, and only public utilities with a need to transmit power have a right to eminent domain authority. Sure, any investor can build a shopping mall and hope shoppers show up, but we don't use eminent domain for that kind of speculative, for-profit enterprise. And that's exactly what Clean Line is -- a "build it and they will come" idea. Block GBE-MO said it best, "No need, no gain, no eminent domain!"
And let's talk about those mid-point converter stations. Without buyers, they're just useless monstrosities. And there are no buyers. Just because Clean Line builds a converter station does not mean power flows to that location. The converter station is a tollbooth -- if there are no buyers to pay for the juice, it doesn't pass the tollgate. Arkansas doesn't magically "get" 500 MW of electricity unless someone pays for it. And if there are no buyers, why invest $100M in a converter station that sits idle? There's no guarantee that a converter station will be built in Arkansas if it's not profitable.
Perhaps the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce (a traditional utility ally that the environmental groups have disregarded as biased in the past) is looking forward to "new supplies of clean energy," but again, without buyers, they get nothing.
And then the author trots out a 5-year old "report" Clean Line presented to the TVA (who elected NOT to purchase any of its electricity). This has about as much validity as any other lobbyist promise, I suppose, and is not worth reading. But, this point is so off the mark it deserves mention:
Greater transmission reliability: The project increases transmission capacity and grid reliability. This is especially important in light of potential for coal power plant retirements and the lack of inter-regional transmission projects.
Reliability is not a measure of the amount of available transmission. Reliability is the ability to deliver power at all times. Our current grid is managed by regional planners/operators who order new projects needed for reliability. No regional grid planner has ordered Clean Line. It's completely outside any regional grid planning. It's completely unneeded for reliability purposes. Furthermore, the most reliable electric delivery system is located as close as possible to the point of use. Transmission lines are a link in the power supply chain that can be broken at a moment's notice. The more power you depend on from far away, the more unreliable your system (more moving parts, more chance for problems). As well, Clean Line is proposing an electric supply provided by intermittent renewables. There is no reliability to a generator that cannot be counted on to run when called. That's unreliability.
The article then goes down a political rathole to make partisan attacks on elected officials. Nobody in the real world cares!
And finally, the author gets on her soapbox to tell the world why and how Keystone will affect the landowners and what makes it "bad."
...property owners and communities throughout the length of the pipeline would be saddled with the risk of a pipeline leak, break or other mishap.
And what makes this different than the burdens saddled on Clean Line-affected landowners? There is no contrast here, just some blather she probably pulled out of newspaper articles about the opposition. I wonder how many Keystone-affected landowners this recycling queen has actually spoken to? I'm guessing none.
I've spoken to plenty of landowners affected by Clean Line's proposal, as well as regular folks concerned about energy issues. Here's the common thread: They're not going to put up with eminent domain for energy projects any more. Whether its Keystone or Clean Line, the project must be built without the heavy hand of government land theft. While use of eminent domain for energy projects was used repeatedly to build the infrastructure we have today, it's no longer acceptable. It's a new generation, with a new way to organize and fight. Nobody's lights are going to go off if we don't build new energy projects. Instead, what these environmentalists propose is to build an entirely new infrastructure to replace our current system, but basing it on yesterday's unpopular ideas. The American people don't want "clean" energy that costs them more or that usurps their right to own and enjoy property.
We're at an energy crossroads. We can embrace new ideas and create a new, democratic and reliable energy future -- or we can simply replace our corporate masters with new "clean" corporations and continue with the status quo. The people are rising up -- no more corporate energy control!
Only when the environmental groups come to terms with their new unpopularity will they become an impetus toward a new energy future and stop dragging the future down into the corporate past.
What's been happening in transmission news this week? The Virginian Pilot
took a look at Dominion's Skiffes Creek 500kV transmission project... and it sort of looks like the project itself is up the creek. Dominion has lots of excuses for why it needs to build a ginormous transmission line across the James River, but none of them are exactly logical. Skiffes Creek is not really the only option to ensure reliability, it's just the one that regional grid planner PJM Interconnection approved a long time ago in an uncompetitive environment. If the transmission project is not approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, then PJM will have to go back to the drawing board and re-engineer another solution to what it views as a reliability problem.
Gotta wonder... if this problem was put out for bid in PJM's new competitive transmission process, would other companies have better solutions? Solutions that solve the problem without creating an eyesore and river hazard of an aerial crossing of the James River? Probably.
Dominion contends that the technology doesn't exist to run a reliable line of the caliber and kind needed under 4 miles of riverbed - at least not without a price tag in the billions.
Oh, baloney, Dominion! Take a look at the Artificial Island project
that is proposed to cross underneath the Delaware River just a couple states to the North. When transmission solutions are evaluated in a competitive environment, a submarine crossing suddenly becomes viable, not only from a cost standpoint, but also with an eye toward "constructability," a measure of the ease of getting a project approved and constructed with minimal opposition. In the case of the Artificial Island project, PJM ultimately selected a proposal by LS Power that uses a 3.5 mile submarine crossing of the river in which the company capped its construction costs
. Dominion needs to re-evaluate its submarine options.
The Skiffes Creek project is a cash cow for incumbent utility Dominion. Under PJM's old, pre FERC Order No. 1000 transmission project selection process, the incumbent was allowed to propose all solutions. The incumbent could propose only those solutions that would provide a healthy shot to its balance sheet. FERC recognized that this process didn't necessarily inspire the best and cheapest solutions and has revolutionized the way regional grid planners select new transmission projects.
Dominion tries to hide behind an aura of concern for ratepayer issues.
Curtis said the Skiffes over-the-river plan, at $60 million, is indeed on the lower cost end of the dozens of routes and options the company considered. Whatever the expense, though, customers will reimburse Dominion. Rate hikes are automatically allowed for utilities that build infrastructure to strengthen the grid.
"So these are rate-payer dollars, not Dominion dollars," Curtis said. "But the opposition is still committed to the conspiracy theory."
Curtis tells only part of the truth here. The part he leaves out is that Dominion will be earning a double-digit return on its $60M investment in the project over its useful life of approximately 40 years. The more the project costs, the more Dominion makes in pure profit. Dominion is hardly agnostic about ratepayer costs. Also, if Dominion had to compete to build this reliability solution, it would face giving up this potential profit entirely to another company with a cheaper, less intrusive proposal. There IS a conspiracy... because the investment is Dominion's dollars, not ratepayer dollars. And Dominion earns a healthy return on every dollar it invests in this project.
So, are there other solutions? Opponents accuse Dominion of not examining and considering all options.
"What's frustrating is that people think we're being disingenuous," Curtis said. "They don't believe we've looked at all the alternatives, or they think we're only concerned about making the most money for our shareholders."
The article reveals
Several lines already feed outside power to the Peninsula, but it won't be enough without the Yorktown plant, which Dominion says is too costly to upgrade in the face of new federal clean-air standards.
Did Dominion consider upgrading and rebuilding the existing lines to increase capacity before settling on an entirely new transmission line? C'mon, Dominion, you're no stranger to this plan... after all, your plan to rebuild the 500kV Mt. Storm-Doubs transmission line to increase its capacity is what killed the entirely new 300-mile PATH transmission line. Or are much cheaper rebuilds only considered when Dominion finds itself in a competitive environment?
How much time and money will Dominion's effort to keep itself from being propelled "up the creek" with Skiffes Creek cost ratepayers? Dominion's blind pursuit of this project in the face of better alternatives is what may cause "rolling blackouts" on the peninsula. The longer Dominion delays by backing a lame horse, the closer the peninsula gets to a genuine reliability issue. Get with it, Dominion, and switch to a solution that everyone can agree upon. Don't you have a legal obligation to keep the lights on? Or only one to increase shareholder dividends every quarter?
Who's a key transmission challenge in the Midwest?
You're a key transmission challenge in the Midwest! The biggest "challenge" to building transmission in the Midwest is the people who are expected to sacrifice their businesses, their homes, their retirement, for benefit of the illusive "communities that have a strong demand for renewable power."
Electric Utility Consultants, Inc. (EUCI) is having another "educational" shindig to discuss you "challenges," and once again, you're not invited.
On November 9 and 10, EUCI will be gathering its fattened cows to the trough in Indianapolis to be "educated" about the following:
Transmission as a Market Enabler: Today's "conservative" approach to transmission planning exposes customers and other market participants to greater risks and costs because by understating the benefits of and risks addressed by transmission, valuable investments in transmission facilities are either not made or delayed.
This session will address a study paid for by WIRES, "The Voice of The Electric Transmission Industry." WIRES is made up of corporations who stand to profit from building new transmission. Apparently we're not planning enough transmission for their balance sheets. Awwww.....
But then there's this:
State Regulatory Viewpoint on Transmission Developments in the Region
State Regulators will share their perspectives on:
The role of stakeholder involvement
How different states are looking at the challenges involved to collaborate with other states
The benefits and challenges that competition for regionally cost-shared transmission projects creates for the PUCs and the ratepayer.
Adam McKinnie, Chief Utility Economist, Missouri Public Service Commission
Did anyone tell EUCI that the Missouri Public Service Commission recently denied Clean Line's Grain Belt Express application for a 700-mile transmission line through the state? Fun times! I hope they're planning to create some space between that guy and...
KURT ALERT! Amy Kurt, Clean Line Energy Manager for the development of the Grain Belt Express Clean Line, will be "educating" participants about "The Challenges of Renewable Energy Integration," including the sub-topic "Maintaining grid security and reliability while integrating increased penetrations of renewable energy." I wonder when Amy got her engineering degree that qualifies her to expound on grid security? Maybe she's been doing it online, in secret? Or maybe Hans Detweiler taught her how to be an "engineer?" At any rate don't let Amy sit with Adam at lunch! "A" is for awkward!
Participants will learn about "Embracing New Communication Technologies." Good to see that Amy isn't teaching this one, because her communication skills haven't been working too well on the people of Missouri. Did I mention that the MO PSC denied the Grain Belt Express application Amy "managed" because its benefits didn't outweigh the harm to Missouri citizens?
So, what "new technologies" will be embraced?
Communicating with the public is a critical element to successfully building new transmission line projects. Strategic communication requires teams to go beyond traditional outreach tools by embracing new techniques including zip-code targeted social media ads (Facebook and Twitter), electronic communication, videos, online comment collection, and Story Maps. For the busy public, an online open house provides access to open house materials, information videos, interactive maps, and input opportunities. With tight project budgets, it's time to embrace new tactics to communicate and stretch dollars and gain the input necessary to identify smart routes and communicate with all stakeholders throughout the project construction process.
What? No unit on using change.org
to send supportive (but off-topic) comments from your Mommy and Little Sis into a regulatory process? Well, maybe there's a role for Amy after all!
Unfortunately, the "busy public" interested in transmission isn't interested in a corporate-slanted version of web "facts." The "busy public" gets its facts from equally busy "public" opposition groups... live and in person, via email, via social media, etc. Hot time in the ol' tool shed tonight! Nobody trusts the corporation to be honest, with good reason.
Don't miss Amy discussing:
Illinois is home to two of Clean Line's projects, the Rock Island Clean Line and the Grain Belt Express Clean Line. The Rock Island Clean Line received its regulatory approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in November of 2014. The Grain Belt Express Clean Line filed its application with the ICC this April. This presentation will provide an overview of Clean Line's approach to developing multi-state, direct current, transmission lines to deliver renewable energy to market.
Sounds like a real party, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's going to cost you $1195, plus travel and expenses, to get inside. But who needs to get inside to be a "challenge?"
Stop being dumb about energy, America!
The average person doesn't think twice when they flip the light switch. The lights come on. It's magic! No, it's not, but the energy corporations have made you believe it is over the years.
Now the energy corporations have made you believe something else that's just not true. All but the most flat-earth cretin believes in global warming, right? It's politically correct to be environmentally conscious, and to "do your part" to save the earth. The corporations have trained you to want... CLEAN ENERGY NOW!
Under the guise of CLEAN ENERGY NOW! the energy corporations have made you a soldier in their CLEAN ENERGY NOW! army. You've become so good at marching to the beat of their drum, that you'll support just about any energy project they propose, as long as they tell you it will bring you CLEAN ENERGY NOW! They've even brainwashed you to serve their purposes in their campaign against "dirty" energy. Fossil fuels are "bad" and CLEAN ENERGY NOW! is "good"!
Well, guess what? You've been used. Isn't it high time that you educate yourself about democratic energy and wean yourself off the media mind control of the energy corporations? What if you had the power to produce energy for your own use? But let's be realistic... unless you want to live with the capital costs and inconvenience of running your own power plant, you're still going to be somewhat dependent upon the common infrastructure system that the energy corporations have built. What happens when the wind stops blowing, or the sun goes down? The light switch magic stops, and you're once again dependent on the energy corporations. We've yet to develop a cost-effective, reliable, renewable, democratic energy system. That doesn't mean we can't be smart about energy though. Indeed, it's imperative that you to be smart about your energy future.
Think having your CLEAN ENERGY NOW! provided by energy corporations is a responsible and thoughtful way to be smart about your energy future? It's not. There are better ways to get to a cleaner, more democratic energy future than simply moving from one corporate trough to another.
If we believe that coal, oil, and gas are bad sources of energy and work toward eliminating the corporations that cling to them, what shall replace them? Do we want to replace them gradually with local, democratic sources of energy? Or do we want to spend billions building new centralized energy sources for our CLEAN ENERGY NOW! corporate overlords? The environmental community has become so goal-oriented and dependent on grant money (and where does grant money come from? energy corporations, of course!) that it wants CLEAN ENERGY NOW! at any price. The wants of the environmental community do not align with democratic energy, or your pocketbook. Going all in on CLEAN ENERGY NOW! supplied by energy corporations is going to be wildly expensive, and at the end of the day, it does nothing to revolutionize the way we produce and use energy.
After fighting the traditional energy corporations for years, the environmental community has suddenly found itself in bed with a bunch of new energy corporations, CLEAN ENERGY NOW! corporations. And these new corporations stand to make a bundle if you continue to demand CLEAN ENERGY NOW! in any form. Many of the new energy corporations are owned by foreign interests. They're not interested in cleaning up your air, they're interested in making money building centralized renewable energy generation and transmission for a society practically shrieking for CLEAN ENERGY NOW!
One such company is Clean Line Energy Partners. Riding the CLEAN ENERGY NOW! wave, this company wants to build more than 2,000 miles of new energy infrastructure across the country. In order to get there, Clean Line has been trying to keep you stupid by repeating the worst renewable energy lies. The more times a lie is repeated, the more it's believed. It's time you learned the truth.
- The best wind energy resources are located in the middle of the country.
No, they're not. Clean Line is using the wrong map, one that conveniently omits offshore wind potential. Here's a comprehensive map that shows true U.S. wind energy potential
. Notice that the strongest winds are located just offshore on both coasts and in the Great Lakes, conveniently near the biggest population centers. We don't need 2,000 miles of new transmission to harvest these wind resources.
- Population centers are demanding clean energy from the Midwest.
No, they're not. While Clean Line has been pushing its projects for six years, not one eastern utility has signed an agreement to purchase Midwest wind power via a "Clean Line." In fact, other areas of the country are busy developing their own renewable energy resources that can provide jobs and economic development at home.
- Exporting wind energy brings jobs and tax revenue to Midwestern states.
But at what cost? Wind power is highly subsidized, both federally and at the state level. Wind farms may pay little in the way of taxes in your state or locality, because the state is so focused on jobs and economic development that it may make a deal to abate tax responsibility for a number of years, hand out additional state tax credits, or some other economic development scheme where the wind farm doesn't pay. The federal production tax credit allows big tax credits - $4B per year, according to some recent press. Who do you think pays that $4B of taxes that wind generators don't? You do. When electricity is sold across state borders, it becomes interstate commerce and cannot be taxed. Exporting energy causes your local energy prices to go up through the simple principle of supply/demand. Once you open new pipelines to ship energy to higher priced markets, that's where locally produced energy will go first. If you want some, you're going to have to pay the same export price. For every penny new transmission lowers east coast energy bills, it raises yours by the same amount. New transmission levelizes energy prices between source and use. New transmission lines lower the taxable value of real estate, meaning less local property tax revenue. Still think new transmission is a good deal for your community? Why?
- Clean Line will build its transmission lines in "fallow" or empty spaces not currently generating income.
No, it won't. Clean Line is proposing to build its transmission lines across some of our best farmland. Farmland is already economically useful terrain
. New transmission takes prime farmland out of production and increases the cost of farming around it. Lower yields and higher costs lead to lost agricultural jobs and revenue, and harms local economies. Clean Line is proposing its transmission lines to cross farms that have been in production for centuries. People live and work on these farms that have been handed down through many generations. Much of a farmer's wealth is wrapped up in his land, so it's not a stretch to compare Clean Line's eminent domain taking of farmland to dipping their hand into your retirement fund. How much of your retirement would you donate to CLEAN ENERGY NOW!
? The highest and best use of this land is farming.
- Transmission right-of-way payments are a highly sought-after source of income for farmers, so supporting transmission helps struggling farmers.
No, they're not. Paying "market value" for a strip of land through a larger parcel devalues the entire parcel, not just the strip of land. Nobody wants their land devalued... nobody. The payments offered by CLEP are insulting. Farmers have overwhelmingly rejected CLEP's offers. That is proof in itself. Clean Line's projects hurt struggling farmers, the same way having your retirement account cleaned out to provide energy and economic development to other states would hurt you.
- Transmission is like a highway or a railroad.
No, it's not. There are already plenty of transmission "highways" in use, developed through a coordinated planning process and paid for by all electric ratepayers. If these highways are old or inefficient, then they should be upgraded by their owners. Building a new "railroad" next to an existing one is wasteful. Building a new "railroad" and not allowing the communities bypassed to use it is unfair. Building new "railroads" to places that nobody wants to travel, and then hoping that some customers develop, is a folly.
- State denial of a transmission permit can be appealed to the federal government.
No, it can't. States have full authority to site and permit transmission within their borders. There is no federal override. However, an untested section of the 2005 Energy Policy Act allows the federal government to "participate" in a privately-funded transmission project sited within the set geographic reach of two federal power marketers. When the federal government participates, it may be able to use federal eminent domain to take land for the project from unwilling sellers. That's it. Bundy Ranch on steroids. There is no federal transmission permitting process. Clean Line wants the federal government to strong arm land acquisition, and then it plans to build its projects without permits of any kind.
- Clean Line is privately funded so ratepayers won't have to pay for it.
All transmission is privately funded! There is no pot of "public" money used for other transmission projects. It's all private capital! All transmission projects are paid for by ratepayers (users). Other transmission projects are regulated and their profits are set by regulators. Clean Line will be unregulated -- its profits are set by market forces. Clean Line will charge users whatever rates it can get away with. The sky's the limit on Clean Line's profit, no wonder it's attracted big, foreign investors who believe the incredible riskiness of Clean Line is overcome by huge returns. While regulated transmission projects must submit their costs to public scrutiny, Clean Line can roll whatever costs it wants into the rates it charges for service. Every penny Clean Line spends on lobbying and influence, public relations and front groups, pulled pork and bouncy houses, will end up in the rates it charges. And who pays those rates? Whoever buys the energy transmitted over the line, possibly you!
We have been conditioned to believe that we must demand CLEAN ENERGY NOW! without taking the time to examine why or how, thinking a fairy tale image of a couple of wind turbines gently turning in a field of golden grain. We've been taught that this fantasy is a "good" way to control our energy future.
It's not. It's simply a way to transfer corporate energy control from one group of owners (fossil fuel companies) to another (clean energy companies). It enables them to collect billions keeping you captive and stupid about energy. Renewable energy isn't necessarily sustainable energy. Sustainable energy does no harm to others. Clean Line's plans are unsustainable and economically harmful. Take ownership of your energy future and seek out local, sustainable solutions. Break the energy corporate chains, America!
This ESP has been controversial. The reason is because FirstEnergy, as part of its plan, has asked the PUCO to pass a fee through to its ratepayers to support its subsidiary’s struggling coal and nuclear generation. The subsidy would be supported by all of FirstEnergy’s Ohio distribution customers, regardless of whether they acquire their generation from FirstEnergy’s subsidiary. The subsidy would be assessed through a rider that is based upon a power purchase agreement (PPA), pursuant to which the ratepayers would guarantee for 15 years a price for the electricity generated, regardless of market conditions.
What I want to focus on now is the tactic FirstEnergy has used to assimilate support for its ESP. In my January blog, I noted that FirstEnergy had assembled what Edward “Ned” Hill, the then-dean of Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, called a “redistributive coalition.”
A redistributive coalition, according to Professor Hill, exists when a small group of stakeholders band together to seek mutually favorable policy treatment at the expense of the public at large. Typically, the coalition incurs little cost in coordinating its efforts. However the public, being heterogeneous and widely dispersed, incurs great cost and difficulty in organizing a response.
FirstEnergy was able to induce companies to support its ESP by including special rates or programs for the coalition members — with the costs therefore borne by the ratepayers. In his original testimony, Hill pointed that the redistributive coalition was assembled to present to the commission (and the public) the appearance of not only broad support for the ESP, but also a broad range of benefits that would flow to varying classes of customers, including those with low income. However, Hill demonstrated that the benefits would only flow to the members of the coalition — a very small group.
The audience: Mostly ignorant!
But what really caught my attention in Hill’s testimony was his discussion of another concept that FirstEnergy cynically exploits: “rational ignorance.” Rational ignorance is the term used to describe reasonable disengagement by a public unable to digest complex technical arguments set forth by more knowledgeable industry experts.
In this context, Hill noted that FirstEnergy looks to exploit the general public’s inability to understand the nuance of the coalition support. On its face, the coalition seems to be asking for policy that the public should support — things such as price breaks for the poor, energy efficiency programs for small businesses, and so forth.
But under close examination, it turns out that the programs are narrowly crafted to help only those in the coalition. Why, for instance, would we only support the city of Akron and no other urban areas in northern Ohio? And why only support the members of the Council of Small Enterprise and not other small businesses?
Utilities AEP and Duke also sought PPAs. Yet neither sought to assemble redistributive coalitions for PPAs to try to fool or confuse the public. But then again, they were unsuccessful in their applications.
Break a leg, fellas (or any other parts necessary to enable quarterly dividends)!
Ever heard the idiom "qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent." Probably not, but you must be familiar with its English translation, "when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas." Clean Line has recently exposed its dirty underbelly by publicly scratching its fleas.
Clean Line is now a proud "member" of the Consumers Energy Alliance (#25 under "Energy Providers and Suppliers").
What is the Consumers Energy Alliance? According to SourceWatch:
The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is a nonprofit organization and a front group for the energy industry that opposes political efforts to regulate carbon standards while advancing deep water and land-based drilling for oil and methane gas. The CEA supports lifting moratoria on offshore and land-based oil and natural gas drilling, encourages the creation and expansion of petroleum refineries and easing the permitting process for drilling. The group also says it supports energy conservation. CEO portrays itself as seeking to ensure a "proper balance" between traditional non-renewable and extractive energy sources and alternative energy sources. The group also supports construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
According to Salon.com, which obtained over 300 emails of personal messages between lobbyists and Canadian officials, the CEA is part of a sophisticated public affairs strategy designed to manipulate the U.S. political system by deluging the media with messaging favorable to the tar-sands industry; to persuade key state and federal legislators to act in the extractive industries' favor; and to defeat any attempt to regulate the carbon emissions emanating from gasoline and diesel used by U.S. vehicles.
So, the CEA is a well-known front group for the fossil fuel industry? But, wait a tick, I thought Clean Line was all about "clean" energy and shutting down the fossil fuel industry? Money makes strange bedfellows.
What is a front group?
A front group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. The front group is perhaps the most easily recognized use of the third party technique. For example, Rick Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) claims that its mission is to defend the rights of consumers to choose to eat, drink and smoke as they please. In reality, CCF is a front group for the tobacco, restaurant and alcoholic beverage industries, which provide all or most of its funding.
Of course, not all organizations engaged in manipulative efforts to shape public opinion can be classified as "front groups." For example, the now-defunct Tobacco Institute was highly deceptive, but it didn't hide the fact that it represented the tobacco industry. There are also degrees of concealment. The Global Climate Coalition, for example, didn't hide the fact that its funding came from oil and coal companies, but nevertheless its name alone is sufficiently misleading that it can reasonably be considered a front group.
The shadowy way front groups operate makes it difficult to know whether a seemingly independent grassroots is actually representing some other entity. Thus, citizen smokers' rights groups and organizations of bartenders or restaurant workers working against smoking bans are sometimes characterized as front groups for the tobacco industry, but it is possible that some of these groups are self-initiated (although the tobacco industry has been known to use restaurant groups as fronts for its own interests).
“Unfortunately, virtually all energy projects face at least some level of opposition. But, in most cases, the opposition comes from the vocal few who stand in the way of the silent majority who see these necessary projects providing tremendous job and economic development opportunities on many levels. The EDJ Alliance will help taxpayers, energy consumers, landowners and businesses to voice their opinion to elected officials so that they embrace the opportunities associated with energy development.”
Vocal few? Silent majority? You mean landowners and consumers who object to the Plains & Eastern project vs. Clean Line Energy Partners? CLEP is hardly silent (paid mouthpieces like HBW stand in evidence) and it's certainly not any kind of "majority" in Arkansas. In addition, CEA does not represent any actual "consumers" or other "grassroots" interests. It simply pretends to speak for them.
Support landowners in Arkansas and Oklahoma! Support energy infrastructure! Support the Plains & Eastern Clean Line!
We need your help!
America's energy infrastructure needs your help! Lobbying efforts at the white house level have inhibited the passage of an energy infrastructure project beneficial to citizens and landowners in Arkansas and Oklahoma!
Support energy infrastructure, land owners, and the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project by simply clicking the link below to sign the petition! Every click makes a difference!
It is absolutely imperative to demonstrate support as a citizen! The future of America's energy infrastructure is in your hands!!
When a couple of the landowners CEA claims to represent questioned the group's claims, HBW promptly removed the claims from its facebook page.
How stupid does HBW think the American people are? Do they ever type a sentence that doesn't end with one (or two!!) exclamation points? This is ridiculous, ineffective drivel. C'mon!!!!!!!!
What "lobbying efforts at the White House level" have inhibited "passage" of an energy infrastructure project? Do you mean the DOE's consideration of Plains & Eastern's Section 1222 application to "participate" in the project in order to override state authority to site and permit transmission? That decision won't be made until next year. And it's supposed to be made by DOE secretary Ernest Moniz, not the "white house." Does HBW and Clean Line know something about some dirty dealings that the rest of us aren't privy to?
So, who are the faces of CEA's "initiative?"
Ryan Scott, Outreach Director
Since 2005, Ryan has provided strategic advice to clients across a number of industries with a focus on the oil and gas sector in particular.
While working as an attorney, before joining HBW, Ryan focused on commercial litigation, often representing business clients in contract disputes. Prior to practicing law, Ryan worked at Deloitte & Touche’s Strategy & Operations Consulting practice. While with Deloitte, he worked with clients such as Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), developing and delivering Financial Reporting & Legal training to a BMS executive team. Ryan evaluated Finance function processes to improve and transform them leading up to a major SAP implementation for Wal-Mart.
Ryan received a B.A. in Economics from the University of Southern California, and a JD – MBA from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Ryan is licensed to practice law in Illinois and is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association.
Here's Ryan Scott trading papers with Clean Line public relations "manager" Amy Kurt at the second Mendota Illinois Commerce Commission public forum in the fall of 2013:
And here's Ryan Scott interacting with the ICC judge at the forum:
Here's what Ryan Scott
had to say about the Rock Island Clean Line at the forum:
MR. SCOTT: My name is Ryan Scott;
R-y-a-n, S-c-o-t-t. I'm here as a resident of Illinois and representative of Consumer Energy Alliance. We're a trade association representing virtually every sector of the economy from trucking, to organized labor, to energy producers. The reason I'm here to speak in favor of Rock Island is simple. Consumer Energy Alliance and I support this project because it represents an important piece of the energy puzzle to supply consumers with affordable and reliable energy. Anyone who plugs in their smart phone into an electrical outlet, fires up their television to watch the Bears or perhaps a better football team or just uses their air conditioner will benefit from this project. The bottom line is in the United States demand is increasing. As one of the previous speakers stated, according to the Department of Energy and Energy Information Administration, forecasts of 25 percent increase in demand for electricity over the next three decades are expected in the United States. At the same time, the supply of electricity is expected to decrease due to aging plants and tightening Federal regulations. Many coal-fired power plants will be shuttered in the coming decades. In Illinois coal, which we expect to be decreasing in production, actually makes up approximately 40 percent of the State's energy base level. So that's an important piece of the puzzle that will no longer be available to Illinoisans. For all the reasons stated above and in order to meet Illinois' energy needs, the Consumer Energy Alliance and I support the Rock Island Clean Line project. Thank you.
That's funny. Ryan didn't mention that Clean Line Energy Partners is a member of the CEA.
Who does Ryan Scott work for? It's not CEA or its "initiative," it's HBW Resources. HBW doesn't do anything for free, so I believe that Ryan was paid to appear at the ICC forum and make that statement.
Didn't Clean Line have the opportunity to present its case to the ICC as the applicant? Why, then, did Clean Line feel it necessary to have paid speakers posing as third party "consumer" interests supporting its project at the forum? Did Clean Line think it was fooling the ICC into believing that consumers supported RICL?
And now Ryan, HBW, and its new "initiative" think they're fooling a whole new bunch of folks at the "white house" and in the Mayberry towns of Arkansas and Oklahoma?
I wonder what Clean Line's big green supporters think about its getting into bed with fossil fuel interests in the CEA? At what point are these environmental fools going to conclude that Clean Line isn't about "green" energy, but a different kind of $green$?
And, as far as Clean Line's attempted deception about the "benefits" of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line? Report to your battle stations, Mayberry! We're going to have some fun! You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to fool a farmer. Also an idiom you've probably heard. Not translated into Latin.
In response to "stakeholders" following the trail of breadcrumbs that lead to 888 First Street, N.E., Washington, DC
, FERC's Office of Energy Projects has come out with a "Suggested Best Practices for Industry Outreach Programs for Stakeholders."
*sigh* Reads no better than any industry propaganda, beginning with its title. Was FERC really attempting to mollify the public and prove that it's acting in the public interest with this? FERC staff needs to take this brochure home to grandma and ask her if she thinks it was written in a conversational and informative manner. She'll probably buy you some gigantic, ugly, 1940's-style underwear next Christmas in response. Or knit you a suit jacket and pop into the office with cookies at random intervals to make sure you're wearing it.
FERC realizes that landowners are "stakeholders!" Yay! But it's all downhill from there. While FERC recommends involving "the public" early in the process on the first page, venturing further shows recommendation that the company involve local elected officials before landowners, in order to "sell" them on the project (while making campaign contributions?). In this way, the company can head off landowner concerns by indoctrinating the public's representatives in the "company way" so that when landowners find out about the project and turn to their local elected officials for help, there is none to be had. Of course, this is easily turned around with enough landowner (voter) pressure, making early elected official notification sort of useless.
There's also recommendations for a whole bunch of "stakeholder" meetings, where only selected "key stakeholders" are invited to participate. Landowners aren't invited to these, they only get to participate in public "open house" meetings, where they are presented with the project as a fait accompli. FERC supposes involving "key stakeholders" can "result in developing partnerships with special interest groups, municipalities, and community business organizations." Holy back room deal, Batman! Is FERC suggesting that a company buy cozy relationships with certain community groups that can benefit from the project so that they can throw the impacted landowners under the bus for their own profit, or for the simple benefit of making sure the project is not constructed in their own back yards, but in the back yards of others who are politically powerless or not participating in this process? Wrong approach!
This whole brochure fails because it's based on the "information deficit" model. It presumes that the only reason people oppose projects is because they lack enough information. It supposes that if a person is bombarded with enough "information" (propaganda) that they will acquiesce to having their lives turned upside down for benefit of others. It doesn't work. Never has. Never will. It actually increases the potential for entrenched opposition and local political battles.
FERC obviously doesn't notice that it has placed itself squarely in the corporate camp. Maybe they didn't intend to, but this brochure reveals who FERC identifies with... and it's not landowners. FERC presumes a proposed project must be built as proposed. FERC could use a crash course in how and why opposition develops. Come out of your ivory (city soot coated) tower! There's much to be learned!
Presenting the public with a project as a fait accompli is the first crucial mistake. Nobody likes to learn that a company, or their elected officials, or the Sierra Club, or the Chamber of Commerce, or the "good ol' boys" in their town (or even FERC... especially FERC) have been secretly developing a project that takes their property. People's property is sacred to them. You might as well show up with a plan to conscript our children. You'd never do that, right? But it's the exact same punch in the gut feeling when a landowner learns others have been conspiring to take what belongs to him.
If you really want impacted landowners to get on board with a project, you need to involve them in the decision making from the start. Instead of saying, "we need to build this," how about saying, "we have a problem and here are several ways to solve it, but we're open to suggestion"?
Only when the public gets some ownership of the decisions made are they likely to work cooperatively toward a solution. This is a still a democracy, right?
Well, isn't that cute? FirstEnergy has mated with itself and given birth to MAIT, Mid-Atlantic Interstate Transmission, LLC. Who thinks up these stupid names? This one rolls off the tongue with as much excitement and pleasure as the phrase "hand over your wallet and nobody gets hurt," or perhaps the descriptive "hot turd."
So, FirstEnergy needs to create another "independent" transco in order to energize its balance sheet by creating the world's sweetest investment account that will pay lucrative double-digit returns for many decades to come? Well, that's good for everyone, right? No, it's not.
FirstEnergy proposes that its "eastern" retail distribution companies "sell" their transmission assets to the newly formed "MAIT" in exchange for a backseat interest in the company and annual "lease" payments for right-of-way and other real estate interests that the retail companies will continue to own (along with the tax liability). Will the "lease payments" be enough to cover all the liabilities of owning the real estate? Or will the retail distribution customers end up financing a portion of that to make the "lease" cheaper for MAIT? Who's going to be supervising that to make sure it's an arm's length transaction?
FirstEnergy says they need to do this because it is consistent with the public interest. You know, you "public" are supposed to benefit from it. So, what are the benefits?
MAIT will not result in cross-subsidization of a non-utility associate company or the pledge or encumbrance of utility assets for the benefit of an associate company.
It supposedly won't have an adverse impact on competition, rates, or regulation.
FirstEnergy commits to hold customers harmless from transaction costs. (oh, like they did in the FirstEnergy/Allegheny Energy merger?)
So, "the public" won't be harmed? Even if we believe that, it's not a "benefit." It's "do no harm."
But, wait, there's more!!
MAIT results in the creation of a stand-alone transmission company, which provides a number of
benefits to customers and the PJM region!
Tell us more, Rod Roddy....
FirstEnergy is in the midst of a major investment cycle in transmission infrastructure. In 2014, FirstEnergy commenced its EtF initiative, which is intended to identify the need for, and facilitate the investment in, improvements to the security, resiliency, efficiency, and operational flexibility of its transmission systems. EtF projects include building and re-conductoring transmission lines; building and enhancing substations; modernizing transmission
communication infrastructure; and installing dynamic reactive resources to regulate system
voltage. In all, FirstEnergy plans to invest approximately $2.5 to $3 billion in the FirstEnergy East Operating Companies’ service territories through this program over the next five to ten years.
FET formed MAIT in preparation for this significant planned investment. As Mr. Staub
explains in his testimony, utilities face significant challenges in their efforts to simultaneously meet the service requirements of retail customers while also making sustained investments in their transmission assets. A utility’s investment in transmission infrastructure competes with other business lines of the utility for capital, and transmission investments “can be deferred in favor of more immediate or emergency investments in distribution” facilities. The singleminded
focus as a transmission-only entity will enable MAIT to commit to addressing the significant investment needs of the transmission system.
This stand-alone structure also will allow MAIT to attract capital on more commercially reasonable terms. Mr. Staub explains that lenders view stand-alone transmission companies favorably due to their transparent and easy-to-assess risk profile. The Commission has also observed that stand-alone transmission companies typically enjoy an enhanced ability to respond to transmission needs and have a superior track record of investing in new infrastructure.
MAIT’s improved access to capital will increase the likelihood that the planned investments are carried out and completed in a timely fashion and at a lower cost. Moreover, MAIT will incur debt in its own name, without a parent guarantee. Any debt MAIT incurs to finance new transmission projects, therefore, will not affect the financial condition and credit ratings of the FirstEnergy East Operating Companies. Hence, the migration to a stand-alone transmission model not only better supports the sustained level of transmission investment needed at MAIT but also preserves and enhances the FirstEnergy East Operating Companies’ capacity to issue debt for their respective retail and distribution needs.
Oh bull...oney, FirstEnergy! You forgot to mention FERC's extra special .5% ROE adder for transmission only companies, or "transcos." And, hey, if MAIT joins PJM, you can get another .5%!! You also forgot to mention in that breath that you do plan to immediately make a section 205 filing to set up a formula rate for MAIT that provides a lot of financial goodies that you can't get through a stated rate. Are you also going to be applying for all the other FERC transmission incentives? I bet you are, you coy little company!
So the real benefits here are for FirstEnergy, not "the public." Since the public is not receiving a benefit, and if we believe FirstEnergy that this won't increase rates (and profits), then why in the hell would FirstEnergy want to do this and shell out the "transaction costs" it can't pass to ratepayers? Do you really expect us to believe there's nothing in it for Y-O-U, FirstEnergy? I mean, you guys are kind of stupid, but I didn't think you were complete idiots.
And I do believe you are attempting to remove a whole bunch of transmission from state regulatory oversight so that you can plow your "transmission spend" into making "investments" of questionable worth in your lower voltage transmission lines that aren't part of any PJM transmission plan.
So, does anyone care? Apparently not much. The only parties to intervene in this docket are competitor PSEG and FERC settlement gadflies AMP and ODEC.
Remember, these companies are regulated to protect you. Except there's nobody minding the store on your behalf.
The trade press is its own little microcosm in the media world. This special interest, subscription only, business model dares to call itself "media." However, the real bread and butter of trade press is selling outrageously expensive subscriptions to its target industry. And the trade press likes to keep its "trade" happy. Because, like, if you tick off your readers, they might cancel their subscription! So the trade press tells them only what they want to hear... happy, happy, happy... media censorship. If you make your subscribers look like heros in every story, they will keep buying your drivel, even if they don't believe it.
Just below trade press on the "truth in media" scoreboard is the mainstream media. Their survival depends on entertaining the masses with what ever version of news it thinks they want to hear. A lot of the time, mainstream media content is created by corporations.
And then you've got your regional or local news outlets, which is probably the first place you're going to see balanced stories that, well, tell the whole story.
So, I came across this teaser piece by trade press outlet Electricity Policy Today. If you want to read the whole "story," you need to pay for a subscription. But, for illustrative purposes here, we don't need anything more than this teaser.
Electricity Policy Today seems quite surprised that Clean Line's Grain Belt Express is "stalled at the MO PSC." The article gushes over the fact that "hundreds of rural landowners" (and yes, they use those quotes, like it's some kind of distasteful being) have risen in opposition at the Legislature and in PSC hearings. They finally reveal to their readers that the opposition is strong and successful and relied on representative democracy, grass-roots activism and landowner rights to score their victory. But they are quick to bookend that with threats from GBE project manager Mark Lawlor to take his "west-to-eats wind power line" (see, I can do it too, and make fun of your editorial failure at the same time!) to the Feds and beg for them to override Missouri's decision.
That's the way it always happens. Opposition has to work 10 times as hard as corporations to get mainstream media attention. Sometimes they even have to stage a news-worthy event or stunt to get any attention. Of course, that's a very thin line to walk -- attention without making yourself look ridiculous. In the sanitized trade press world, you're pretty much locked out altogether... unless you win. Then they talk about your victory in surprised tones.
And there they are: The "trade" guys, scratching their heads and wondering how it was possible to get their butts kicked so hard by an industrious group of plebeians.
"Wha? What happened? We were supposed to win! How did that happen?"
We happened, you dolts!
Because, you know, you really can't eat wind after all. Thank a farmer at your next meal.