What is surprising is that Clean Line has chosen to further its "miscommunication" that its project capacity is only available for transmission of wind energy. You'd think they might be thankful to have dodged the discrimination bullet for the time being and show more decorum, but no, not Clean Line. It appears that the company has interpreted FERC's action of kicking the discrimination can down the road to mean that FERC won't enforce its own regulations later, or simply doesn't care.
Clean Line's press release claimed:
The Grain Belt Express Clean Line (Grain Belt Express) is an approximately 750-mile, overhead direct current transmission line that will connect wind energy from western Kansas with utilities and customers in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and states farther east.
Receiving this authority will allow Clean Line to sell transmission capacity to potential customers of the project, including utilities and other load serving entities or clean energy generators.
The Grain Belt Express is estimated to enable more than $7 billion of investment in new wind farms. Clean Line recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to wind generators in the western Kansas
region, and results confirmed the need for transmission to access larger markets for renewable energy. Developers of wind projects totaling over 13,500 MW of potential capacity shared information on high
capacity factors and cost-competitive wind energy prices. The combined capacity of these wind projects under development could fill the Grain Belt Express line over three times.
Back in March, when GBE's FERC application was still pending, the Missouri Landowners Alliance filed a protest, informing the Commission that GBE had been soliciting interest in its project exclusively from wind generators in contravention of FERC's open access policies. FERC requires transmission owners to provide non-discriminatory transmission access to prevent gaming of electricity markets. A transmission owner is like the highway toll collector, and may not pick and choose which cars can use its road as that would allow the toll collector to give preference to the cars that increase its market share, profits, or any other criteria it values. Therefore, GBE must offer its capacity to ALL generators equally, not just those producing electricity at wind farms.
In response to the protest, FERC said:
We find that Landowners’ concerns are based on speculation as to Grain Belt Express’ solicitation efforts, which Grain Belt Express has not fully implemented. Grain Belt Express has not proposed in its application, and we do not approve, selection or ranking criteria based upon the type of generation that a potential transmission customer might seek to interconnect. That Grain Belt Express has posted an inquiry about potential wind development in Kansas does not prove that Grain Belt Express intends to exclude other resources, and it is premature to judge now the totality of its solicitation efforts. As Landowners have recognized, the Commission has previously disapproved of a proposal that would include a preference for renewable resources as part of a transmission owner’s open season criteria where the transmission owner did not justify such preference. [Rock Island Clean Line] As discussed elsewhere in this order, Grain Belt Express is required to make a filing after the conclusion of its solicitation process that demonstrates compliance with the commitments made in its application, and any concerns that Grain Belt Express has unduly discriminated against non-wind resources can be addressed in that proceeding.
FERC's "approval" ain't no big thing. Any legal monkey could have concocted a "plan" to negotiate transmission rates using prior FERC orders. As more than one lawyer has told me, creating legal filings is mere mimicry of prior filings that were successful. The real "approval" from FERC may only come after GBE has properly conducted its negotiations as per the plan and made its compliance filing without attracting protests or complaints that GBE discriminated against certain customers. Good luck there, Clean Line ;-)
Of course, authorization to negotiate rates does not equate to the ability to do so. GBE still needs approval from every state in which it intends to build its project, including Missouri and Illinois. It needs to put a real price tag on the cost of its project so that the fantastical business plan can generate profits by selling its service. It needs some customers, either generators (that don't exist), or utilities wanting to buy power from the non-existent generators. It has none, and is not actively seeking any at this time.
“FERC’s jurisdiction is pretty much limited to making sure that the process of selling transmission rights is open and transparent and non-discriminatory,” said Mark Lawlor, director of development for Clean Line Energy. “To make sure we aren’t building lines to give some competitors an advantage that others don’t have access to.”
Company officials don’t expect the line to go into commercial operation until 2018, but with FERC approval the company can begin talks with potential customers, Lawlor said.
The exact method for selling capacity on the line or how it will be priced hasn’t been determined, he said.
In the meantime, the company continues to work its way through state regulatory processes, he said.