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. 
 
 
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.
 
 
If I had a buck for every journalistic comparison between the high voltage electric transmission grid and the interstate highway system, I'd be rich.  Uncreative and incurious journalists love to make this comparison, usually accompanied by a nighttime time-lapse traffic photo.  Ooooooh!

Stupid.

Back in 2006, AEP used comparison between the grid and the interstate system as a marketing gimmick so it could turn electricity into an interstate commodity and transmission into a profit center.

AEP's interstate transmission highway gimmick was even better using an Eisenhower, so it hired one.  And it pretended that a new "interstate highway" of transmission lines would provide reliable, efficient, affordable, and secure sources of power for everyone.

Oh, poppycock!

But it just never ends.

Here's why the electric grid is unlike an interstate highway:

  • The highway system was built using public money, for the benefit of the public.  The highways are operated by governments, and tolls for use are poured back into the highway system for the benefit of the public.  However, the electric transmission system is built using private money, for the benefit of investors.  The grid is operated by utilities, and tolls for use go into the utility's pockets for the benefit of stockholders.  Highways are not-for-profit enterprises.  Electric transmission is a for-profit enterprise.
  • The highway system "binds the massive country together into a single, integrated network" so that we may travel anywhere.  However, it is inefficient, costly and wasteful to "bind the massive country together into a single, integrated electric market."  Electricity is unlike other commodities because it must be used the instant it is made.  It cannot be stored for later sale or use.  Transporting it long distances is like transporting water through a leaky pipe -- much is lost along the way, simply wasted.  The longer the distance, the more electricity wasted.  While it may be useful to travel long distances via highways, it is not useful to transmit electricity long distances.  The most cost effective, efficient, safe and reliable electrical system is one where electricity is generated at or close to its point of use.
  • People were willing to make way for highways on their land because they could use these highways, and the government wasn't making a profit by operating the highway.  How come the media never compares transmission lines to highways with no on or off ramps for local use?  People are NOT willing to make way for long-distance electric transmission lines because they may not directly use the transmission line, and the transmission line is a profit center for its owner.  If a profit is to be made, the landowner should be paid appropriately in line with the continued profits, not tossed a one-time "market value" pittance for the use of his land in perpetuity.
  • Eminent domain was used to build the interstate highway system because it was for "public use."  Eminent domain was also used to build the transmission and distribution system that electrified our country because it was for "public use."  The key here is that both were for "public use."  But now transmission is proposed for other reasons such as economics, public policy, or simply as a way to make money shipping electricity to new markets.  Is this really a "public use," or is it a slide down a slippery slope?  Where does "public use" stop and "private profit" begin?
Renewables are ready for harvest near population centers.  We don't need a series of vulnerable "toll roads" to transport them coast-to-coast.  This is simply the utility industry's latest attempt to dig in a toe-hold that will keep you captive for many years to come. 

Just say "no" to electric "highways" and uninspired journalism.
 
 
I've been away for the past week.  No emails, no blog posts, no piles of electronic files, no transmission whatsoever.  So, what has transmission being doing while I wasn't paying attention?  Same old, same old.

SNAFU

A browse of news I missed:

The Sierra Club is still trying to plan the transmission grid and getting it wrong.

PJM despot Steven Herling sent a nasty-gram to NJ Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel, claiming that he was spreading misinformation.

The chief planning official for PJM Interconnection Inc., the grid operator, said in a letter to New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel that continued operations of the B.L. England power station in Cape May County would not create reliability problems, but that the plant's shutdown would.

"Recent media statements attributed to you about reliability and cost impacts associated with the B.L. England generating units' remaining in service are based on a misunderstanding of PJM Interconnection's planning process," Steven R. Herling, PJM's vice president of planning, wrote Thursday to Tittel.

"Our transmission-planning process is very complex, dynamic, and - as a consequence - can be misunderstood," Herling said in his letter to Tittel. "I would have been very happy to explain the process and underlying facts to help you avoid confusion, and would be willing to clarify PJM's study results at any time."

Transmission developers held their "public input" open house dog & pony shows on lines they want to build.  The "public" showed up en masse to participate, but the real decisions have already been made.  Here's one example from Wisconsin, where ATC plays coy about its preferred route, hoping to foment discord among community groups that wish to foist the transmission line on someone else.  The media helps out by framing its story as a NIMBY issue, and failing to examine the need issue.
“I have no doubt, in the long run, we need power and we need power transmission lines, and they’re going to go somewhere,” said Don McKay, general manager of Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area.

“Nothing here is very negotiable,” said McKay, who also is a Vermont town supervisor.

Robert and Danuta Pyzalski said it was too preliminary to get answers about their town of Middleton home, in the study area.

“My concern is how close the lines would be to residential areas,” Robert Pyzalski said. “To say there would be no danger would be naive.”
Dominion has begun blowing smoke up the behinds of communities in Virginia, pretending to pioneer new ways to work with communities to site transmission lines.
Members of a new resident-led work group created to grapple with Dominion Virginia Power’s plans to run a transmission line through Alexandria did not mince words following the utility’s first presentation on the project.

“I’m just looking at statements here with nothing to back them up.”

Both officials and work group members are growing more suspicious as Dominion’s application date creeps closer.

“There’s some healthy skepticism,” Smedberg said. “While Dominion says they don’t know what a final route would be, many people in the community find that a little hard to believe. They know exactly what they want to do and have known for a while.”
Use of the Delphi technique really isn't new, Dominion! 
Energy companies fight over building new transmission to import power to a big city vs. building new centralized generation in or near the city itself.  How about you folks in Houston cutting back on your conspicuous consumption and slapping some solar panels on a roof or two?  That would certainly be cheaper for the poor ratepayers these companies pretend to care about.  Energy efficiency and local renewables are within reach.

Same stuff, different day.  Energy company greed to invest capital for big returns never changes.  The only thing that has changed in this scenario is the opposition of the people to big energy projects.  It's getting more organized, more knowledgeable and more successful.  Try building big energy anything anywhere and there's guaranteed opposition that increases costs and delays projects.  Finding new ways to neutralize the NIMBYs is a losing game.

But, what if there were no NIMBYs?  Underwater and underground transmission lines are sailing through approvals with little to no opposition.  The Champlain Hudson Power Express project is a go, and the New England Clean Power Link isn't far behind.  If you're going to build new transmission, this is the way to do it.
With permits to build an underwater and underground power line from the Canadian border to New York City all but fully in hand, the developer is turning its attention to a similar proposal for a 1,000-megawatt power line that would run down Lake Champlain and then across Vermont to feed the New England electric grid.

Once out of the water all the cable will be laid in public rights of way and the company TDI New England has been working with the state of Vermont and local communities along the route on the minutiae: Everything from how to be sure the under-road conduits don’t worsen spring frost heaves to how the cables cross beneath bridges or how to ensure that once the cables are buried they aren’t disturbed.

Benson Selectboard member Sue Janssen said TDI New England has worked hard to meet the concerns of her community of just over 1,000. They are even paying a lawyer of the town’s choosing to represent the community in the detailed discussions that are coming.

“I have the impression if we’d said we wanted our dirt roads painted pink they’d have done it,” she said.

So far there has been no significant opposition to TDI New England’s major electrical infrastructure project such as has faced plans to build ridge-top industrial wind projects, extend a natural gas power line from the Burlington area to Rutland or build a 180-mile above-ground power line between the Canadian border and northern New Hampshire.

“I think that one of the key differentiators of other proposed projects is that we are all buried,” said TDI New England CEO Donald Jessome.
That's right... people can support transmission projects proposed by companies willing to work with communities to lessen a project's impact.

Opposition has a cost.


Meanwhile, as more buried projects are proposed, traditional overhead transmission builders are whining about the cost of buried lines.  Funny position for companies that make money on transmission investments -- the more they spend, the more they make.  Why not bury the projects?  Oh, right, they don't know how.  They're still living in the horse and buggy days, telling the same lies about how the technology doesn't exist to bury lines, or that the cost will be 10 or 20 times an overhead line.  That just isn't true.
Matt Valle’s solution to energy shortages in Eastern Massachusetts eschews the usual approach of running miles of new transmission lines on unsightly towers. Instead, Valle proposes to bury 50 miles of high-power cable in the ocean floor, using an underwater robot that resembles a lunar rover.

The robot would dig a trench 4 to 6 feet deep in an arc from Salisbury to Lynn for a power line that would bring 520 megawatts of electricity from the Seabrook generating station into Greater Boston.

If approved, the so-called SeaLink line would be the first underwater transmission line in Massachusetts, and Valle argued that it would be more reliable than high-voltage lines that are exposed to New England weather.

“It’s a buried system. It is protected against extreme weather — high winds, flooding, icing,” said Valle, president of New Hampshire Transmission, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, one of the country’s largest power companies.

But there is one major drawback: With a price tag of more than $1 billion, SeaLink looks on paper to cost about $350 million more than a competing project, which includes a new 25-mile transmission line running from Londonderry, N.H., to Tewksbury, as well as upgrades to the existing high-voltage power network.

“Ours is the most cost-effective solution. That’s a fact,” said Rudy Wynter, president of the transmission business at National Grid, which is partnering with Northeast Utilities on the project. It would feature a combination of high-voltage 115 kV lines and extra-high-voltage 345 kV lines constructed on rights of way that are already held by the two companies.
SNAFU.

Is it really all about the cost to ratepayers?  Anyone thought of asking ratepayers if it's worth a few extra cents in their power bill to bury high-tech transmission projects in order to make them more reliable?  I think the people would overwhelmingly support buried lines from a reliability standpoint alone.  A majority would also probably support more expensive buried lines in order to get lines built quicker and with less burden on host landowners, viewsheds and the environment. 
 
 
Hint:  It's not the Sierra Club or their inexpert volunteer leadership.  It's not merchant transmission developers operating outside the regional planning process, either.

It wasn't too long ago that I suggested that Sierra Club should stick to hugging trees and quit trying to engineer the power grid.
  Although they were soundly rebuffed by the TVA in that instance, it appears that the Sierra Club isn't done trying to engineer the power grid yet.

A member of the Arkansas Chapter of the Sierra Club has decided that he can proclaim a transmission line "needed" if, in his opinion, it's in the public interest.

That's not the way it works.  Need for transmission lines is determined by regional transmission organizations in most parts of the country.  This is done through a pretty extensive and technical process.  It's not done by a gaggle of arrogant know-nothings sitting around a campfire getting high and dreaming about creating a green utopia.  It's not done by Sierra Club volunteers, either.
 

Sometimes, even real grid planners get a determination of "need" wrong.


The Clean Line projects have not been determined to be "needed" by any regional transmission organization.

  Instead, the RTOs have selected other projects "as a way to reduce carbon emissions and thus reduce the risk of the damaging effects of global warming."  But they have not selected Clean Line, therefore, Clean Line is not needed.

Because Clean Line is not needed, it is a venture in "capitalism."  Capitalism is a "free market" system, where trade and industry are controlled by private owners.  In a capitalistic society, no one may be forced to sacrifice his or her private property solely for the profit of another.  Capitalism would mean that Clean Line would be required to negotiate to purchase the private property it needs for its unneeded project.  It is in a communist state that private property rights do not exist.

When an infrastructure project is determined to be "needed" and in the public interest by a qualified entity with the knowledge and authority to approve it
, private property may be taken for the public use.  Clean Line has not been determined needed, nor granted authority to condemn private property, in Iowa, Missouri, or Arkansas.  Eminent domain, need and public interest is not determined by the Sierra Club.  None of the Clean Line projects has been fully permitted and are not "in progress" anywhere.

Clean Line has no customers, either generators or load serving entities.  It is not needed.  It will not shut down any coal plants.  Not one.  It also won't do anything to meet EPA regulations in importing states.  The credits for wind generation may only be taken once, not multiple times by exporting states, and every other state on the way from generator to load.  Clean Line will NOT speed up any carbon reductions.  It's simply a plan for a transmission line that could carry energy produced by any type of generator.

Clean Line is greed masquerading
as green.  Because the Sierra Club knows little about electric transmission, some clubs have made the short-sighted decision to endorse it.  An arrogant, confrontational, scorched earth path to a "cleaner" society will never succeed.

Sierra Club should be doing its transmission homework, instead of jumping on the first "clean" trojan horse that rolls by.


 
 
A good friend of mine came up with an apt acronym for the few diehard fans of the Clean Line Energy projects.

MIMPSY:  Money In My Pocket, Screw You!

The MIMPSYs are in high gear in South Dakota, eagerly salivating at all the money they will rake in if the states of Iowa and Illinois allow their people and their land to be used to build Clean Line's money-making "road to market."

For years, Clean Line has been telling Iowa's economic development types how much money will flow into Iowa if it only forces approval of its Rock Island Clean Line project.

But, it now appears that at least a third of the riches promised to Iowa in exchange for its sacrifice will flow to South Dakota instead.

Dakota Power Community Wind has been pumping itself up in the media lately, trying to raise enough capital to build a wind farm of up to 1,000MW in eastern South Dakota.  This is nearly one-third of RICL's proposed 3,500MW capacity.

A recent article claims the benefits South Dakota will reap from the building of RICL:
"The economic potential for our area is tremendous and uses South Dakota's renewable resources to help solve our country's energy needs," said Beresford Mayor Jim Fedderson.

Based on a study done for a similar project, Dakota Power says the potential revenue from turbines to landowners could be between $6 million and $7 million annually. State gross production annual tax receipts could reach more than $4.5 million and the county nameplate tax revenue could equal $3 million per year. Statewide direct economic effect could be more than $200 million.
But, wait, all that money is flowing directly out of the money RICL has promised to Iowa in exchange for allowing RICL to be built as a closed highway through the state.  South Dakota's windfall is coming directly from the pot of money RICL promised to Iowa!  How much more of RICL's economic promise to Iowa is going to evaporate if RICL is permitted?

Pure and simple greed can turn even the finest men and women into blinded fools.

Or MIMPSYs.  A handful of South Dakota landowners hosting turbines are expected to rake in $6 to $7 MILLION dollars per year if RICL is built.  What are the thousands of landowners hosting the line in Iowa and Illinois expected to be paid for their contribution to the effort by hosting the line?  I think I heard something like $500 annually for each tower, if the landowners accepts less than fair market value for the easement and opts for the annual payment scheme. 

Why the disparity?  Why are just a few landowners in South Dakota going to rake in $6-7 million annually, while the rest of the host "team" must settle for $500?

Stop.  Think.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Don't let greed blind you.
 
 
Yesterday marked the first two Missouri PSC public hearings on Clean Line's Grain Belt Express project.  Additional hearings will be held later this week, and in early September.  Get dates, times and locations here.

Missouri showed them!

Hundreds packed the two public hearings and dozens spoke out against the project.
I think Clean Line infused spokeswoman Cari VanAmburg with a little too much perky.

"500 megawatts of clean wind power for the state!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  You're going to be seeing this in your nightmares for years.

You believe her, don't you?


 
 
Clean Line just did something amazingly inept.  It tried to shout down the medical opinion of a well-respected, local Missouri physician with canned studies from a Clean Line public relations woman.

In response to a very interesting article in the Missouri Moberly Monitor where Dr. Dennis Smith was quoted regarding possible health effects from EMF and ELF, Houston-based Clean Line PR gal Adhar Johnson submitted a letter to the editor where she gave her best medical opinion that Dr. Smith's medical opinion was "misleading."  Johnson's letter starts out:
As a project manager at Clean Line
Energy and someone who is passionate
about moving the wind industry
forward, I would like to address some
of the misleading statements made in
the recent article published in the
Moberly Monitor, "Line's health problems
brought to light."
How does being a project manager at Clean Line qualify this woman to analyze medical information and make recommendations about people's health?  It doesn't!

After blathering on citing a whole bunch of studies that she thinks refute Dr. Smith's opinion, Johnson closes with this:
I strongly urge folks to gain a full understanding of direct current technology
from nationally and internationally trusted sources. At Clean Line Energy, safety is among our chief concerns as we strive to treat landowners with the utmost respect.
Trusted sources?  Who's more trusted than your doctor?  Some corporate creature with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Missouri and a Certificate in International Affairs from Washington University whose company stands to make huge profits from building a transmission project?

I strongly urge Adhar to gain a full understanding that she's not a medical professional, and EMF is an issue of perception.  If people perceive that there is a medical risk from living in close proximity to high voltage transmission lines, then that's the end of the debate.  No amount of additional studies tossed at a fearful public is going to change the mind of a worried mother, or a concerned father.  Adhar should have just let it go instead of trying to out-doctor the doctor and question his professional expertise.

Dr. Smith's wife strikes back with this recently penned letter:
The recent editorial by Adhar Johnson, Clean Line Project manager has been expected, and her bias should be obvious.  The information provided in the June 6 article,  Transmission Line Health Problems Brought to Light, by Connie Duvall, was very careful to address ONLY the types of fields produced by high voltage lines.
My reputation is on the line in the community in which I live and serve, and the information used was carefully screened for accuracy.   Since the June 6th article, additional studies have been uncovered which directly name HVDC lines as the culprit in adverse health effects.  The information  from the studies repeatedly questions the "trusted" sources quoted by Clean Line Energy's advocates. This technical information will be used in November to testify before the MO Public Service Commission in Jefferson City.
(Above Statement by Dr. Dennis Smith)  

Clean Line managers and land developers have been flooding papers in would-be affected counties with their propaganda, touting their passion for wind energy.  These power lines have little if anything to do with wind energy as they are not needed to utilize it.  Clean Line execs typically implore the public to turn to trusted sources, which is exactly what we want them to do.
 
After all, the area of education of the Grain Belt Express (GBE) pushers is business and communications; their expertise is in the art of the deal, how to manipulate statements to their advantage, and how to turn a fast buck.  Is this reason to trust them?

They have determined to discredit Dr. Smith because his research threatens their venture.  Along with discounting him, they must also take down the numerous scientists, electromagnetic experts, and doctors who have done countless studies pointing to the harms of this type of EMF exposure.

Adhar Johnson, Clean Line manager, attended the Randolph County commissioner public meeting where a gentleman emotionally testified of his wife’s oncologist’s admonition that such a power line would necessitate their relocation.  In a meeting at Rothwell Park, Adhar told me  that the doctor had no business saying that, and then she handed me Clean Line’s go-to documentation of the one out-dated statement made by the World Health Organization (WHO) that there were no known health risks.  Much more recently, the WHO has revised their statement and has classified the emissions from these lines a class 2B carcinogen, as has the Environmental Protection Agency.  HUD has ruled the lines and towers “a hazard and a nuisance”, and FHA appraisals have to be adjusted to address the effect these lines have on marketability of properties near the lines.  The highly respected, non-partisan, U.S. Government Accounting Office expressed many of the same concerns voiced by citizens regarding HVDC lines in its report to Congress in 2008.

Dr. Smith also discovered the following statute:

Exercise of eminent domain over private property for economic development purposes prohibited--definition.
523.271. 1. No condemning authority shall acquire private property through the process of eminent domain for solely economic development purposes.  2. For the purposes of this section, "economic development" shall mean a use of a specific piece of property or properties which would provide an increase in the tax base, tax revenues, employment, and general economic health, and does not include the elimination of blighted, substandard, or unsanitary conditions, or conditions rendering the property or its surrounding area a conservation area as defined in section 99.805.
Missouri Revised Statutes
Chapter 523
Condemnation Proceedings
Section 523.282
Our Randolph County Commissioners have welcomed Clean Line GBE to our county for the exact reasons that the statue prohibits and have voiced at public meetings their support for those reasons prohibited in the statute.
 
Dr. Smith is trusted in this community as he has been in all communities in which he’s lived.  I make no apologies in stating that he has had a stellar medical career, having graduated in the top 5% of his medical class and having received multiple awards and accolades for his single-minded service to his God-given mission in Public Health.  He maintains excellent rapport with former hospitals where he has been employed and would be whole-heartedly welcomed back to any of those facilities.  Consider also the editorials that have been submitted by the many respected members of the community, your long-time friends and associates who oppose this line. Shall we then trust some wealthy business people whose real passion is increasing their profits, or should we trust scientists and doctors who are devotees to public health and safety?  It’s not a difficult choice.

Sincerely,
Laurie Smith
Moberly, MO