Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Regional Transmission Organization!
Is it PJM?
Is it MISO?
Is it SPP?
Which Regional Transmission Organization is it?
It's merchant transmission wanna-be Clean Line Energy Partners!
Go away, Clean Line, you're not a Regional Transmission Organization!

The U.S. Department of Energy has finally published Clean Line's third "application" to have the DOE "participate" in its Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project in preparation for opening a new 45-day public comment period on non-NEPA issues.  The only thing missing on this pile of make-believe is the golden binding.

This supplemental application is Clean Line's third chance to cure defects in its prior two applications, such as the fact that Sec. 1222 requires that an eligible project:
(2) is consistent with--
(A) transmission needs identified, in a transmission expansion plan or otherwise, by the appropriate Transmission Organization (as defined in the Federal Power Act [16 U.S.C. 791a et seq.]), if any, or approved regional reliability organization;
None of Clean Line's projects are included in a RTO/ISO plan.  In fact, Clean Line hasn't even bothered submitting its projects into any regional planning process for consideration.

So, what did Clean Line do when the DOE asked that it prove its project met the statutory requirements under Sec. 1222?  Clean Line pretends to be a Regional Transmission Organization!
2.2 The proposed Project must be consistent with transmission needs identified, in a transmission expansion plan or otherwise, by the appropriate Transmission Organization (as defined in the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791a et seq.) if any, or approved regional
reliability organization

In establishing this criterion, Congress sought to ensure that projects undertaken through Section 1222 are appropriately planned to meet identified transmission needs. The Plains & Eastern Project meets this requirement. On an  interregional basis, numerous planning
initiatives and reports have identified the need for new West-East transmission lines to move
wind power from the central United States to load centers. On a regional basis, SPP and MISO (the two RTOs with which the Project interconnects) have also identified the need for new transmission facilities to accommodate wind generation. Further the Project has been planned and developed in a manner that is consistent with ISO/RTO planning assessments. Namely, in planning and developing the Project, Clean Line performed a series of studies and evaluations that are consistent with how the ISOs and RTOs generally identify needs and solutions for transmission system development. A final measure by which Clean Line meets the statutory requirement is its consistency with reliability standards issued by the approved regional reliability organizations (“RRO”) as envisioned under Section 1222. In light of these multiple areas of consistency, further detailed below, Project meets the criterion for consistency with planning and identified transmission needs.
That's right.  Clean Line says that it planned its project using the same studies that RTOs use to make regional transmission plans, therefore Clean Line's findings that its project meets identified transmission needs are just as good as any RTO determination.

Here's what it takes to be a Regional Transmission Organization:
(j) Required characteristics for a Regional Transmission Organization.
A Regional Transmission Organization must satisfy the following characteristics when it commences operation:
(1) Independence. The Regional Transmission Organization must be independent of any market participant. The Regional Transmission Organization must include, as part of its demonstration of independence, a demonstration that it meets the following:
(i) The Regional Transmission Organization, its employees, and any non-stakeholder directors must not have financial interests in any market participant.
(ii) The Regional Transmission Organization must have a decision making process that is independent of control by any market participant or class of participants.
(iii) The Regional Transmission Organization must have exclusive and independent authority under section 205 of the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. 824d), to propose rates, terms and conditions of transmission service provided over the facilities it operates.
Get it, Clean Line?  You can't be a Regional Transmission Organization that identifies transmission needs as long as you have a PECUNIARY interest in a project under consideration.

Clean Line is not a Regional Transmission Organization.

Just one more thing to fight about in federal court?  Any determination by DOE that Clean Line's project(s) qualify under Section 1222 is sort of like one of those Monopoly "Go To Jail" cards.  Go to Federal Court.  Go Directly to Federal Court.  Do Not Pass "Go."  Do not collect... any money at all. 

Do you suppose Clean Line is also going to be on the hook for DOE's legal bills, or is the American Taxpayer going to end up funding this courtroom showdown?
Silly!  But that's exactly what Grain Belt Express expects the Missouri Public Service Commission to do -- issue a permit for the project and then trust Grain Belt Express to later meet all the requirements for a permit.  In the words of the attorney for one of the intervening landowner groups:
Even though the Commission gave GBE a second chance to provide the additional information the Commission said it requires in order to make a decision in this case, GBE did not provide the requested information. Much of the requested information—for example, the RTO interconnection studies—will not be available for some time, perhaps years. And, GBE may never be able to get the required consents from all of the county commissions. GBE’s general attitude is summed up thusly: Trust us—we will give you the information only after you give us our CCN.
As you may recall, instead of making a decision on the application of Grain Belt Express for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity after going through all the motions of a contested case (discovery, testimony, evidentiary hearing), the MO PSC issued an Order demanding more information from the applicant.  This would be additional evidence submitted after the hearing record had closed.  This generates due process concerns, and the PSC had asked the parties how they wanted to deal with this submission of additional evidence.

The response of of Show Me Concerned Landowners points out that Clean Line didn't actually submit the information ordered -- in many instances, it submitted excuses for not providing information, claiming that it would provide the necessary information AFTER the MO PSC issued the CCN.  Clean Line seems to overlook the fact that much of this information is REQUIRED in order to issue the permit in the first place!  No information, no permit.  It's as simple as that.
The Commission should not allow GBE to play this “which comes first—the chicken or the egg” game. Show Me recommends that the Commission deny GBE’s Application without prejudice. GBE is free to refile its Application after it obtains all of the relevant information and documentation that the law and this Commission require.
The Missouri Landowners Alliance, another landowner group, took a different approach to this permitting circus:  Asking that the entire legal process be repeated in order to allow this new evidence to be examined and rebutted by the other parties.  That should only add... oh... another year or so to the permitting process?

But wait, Clean Line is whining about the amount of time this is taking!  It's already been more than a year! 
The Commission’s supplemental procedure should be scheduled with consideration given to the time that has already elapsed in this case. The Company filed its Application for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity on March 26, 2014, over 12 months ago. Staff and other parties conducted extensive discovery regarding the Company’s Application, testimony, and schedules. The Commission held eight local public hearings, which occurred on August 12 and 14, and September 3 and 4. Three rounds of pre-filed testimony occurred, and the Commission conducted five days of evidentiary hearings (November 10, November 12-14, and November 21).
...and then the Commission ordered GBE to submit new evidence after the record had closed.  Return to "Go!"

United for Missouri, another citizens' group, thinks the whole idea of asking for more evidence after the record is closed isn't legal in the first place and the PSC should just deny GBE's application outright:
UFM recommends that the Commission reject the Grain Belt Express Response and deny Grain Belt Express’ application because the Commission misapplied its rules in its March 11 Order. The Commission’s order, therefore, was unlawful, arbitrary and capricious. Further, a review of the Grain Belt Express Response shows that there is very little additional relevant evidence to be adduced in additional proceedings. As a result, further proceedings would be inappropriate and a useless exercise. Finally, a review of the Grain Belt Express Response confirms UFM’s argument in its briefs previously filed in this case, that the proposed facilities are a private enterprise not devoted to the public convenience or necessity, and therefore are not qualified to receive a certificate of convenience and necessity.
And the Missouri Farm Bureau can't resist pointing out how futile this whole exercise has been:
Another initial point pertains to the information provided on the number of voluntary easements Grain Belt Express has obtained from landowners on the proposed route. According to Supplemental Exhibit 1 of Grain Belt Express’ Response, out of 724 tracts of land, Grain Belt Express has acquired only 45 easements voluntarily—about 6.2%. Grain Belt Express has been aggressively pursuing voluntary easements from landowners for a year. Given Grain Belt Express’ lack of success in convincing landowners that this is a good project for Missouri, granting Grain Belt Express the power of eminent domain would be inappropriate.
Really?  Would the MO PSC really grant eminent domain to a company that's going to need to use it on 93.8% of the properties?

Perhaps the MO PSC should have just denied the application in the first place, instead of opening this can of worms.  It's not too late!
Yesterday marked the official conclusion of the FERC hearing that's taken up so much of my time over the past month or so.

I'm sure numerous celebrations occurred.

Some were more fun
than others
For those who remarked that the second celebration didn't look like much fun, I offer that the beer was picked up off the table, the light turned out, and the room vacated.  Instant fun!

Now, where did I leave my life?  Anyone seen it?

First, I offer this article from WSJ* (I admit it, the world has been revolving even though I paid it little attention).  It's finally been recognized that utilities may be investing in infrastructure as a cash cow.  Ya think?

The way the regulated rate world works is that the more they invest, the more $$ they make.  Although utilities have a built in O&M component in most stated rates, if they don't spend it all, they can use the money for something else, such as increasing shareholder dividends.  And they did.  But, as less power is sold, profits go down and the utility must turn to other profit centers, such as increased capital spending on long-neglected maintenance, or new transmission lines.  And rates go up.

And they wonder why we drink...

*If you can't read the article, google the headline "Utilities' Profit Recipe:  Spend More" and you should be able to access it directly.
Hi!  You've reached StopPATHWV Blog.  Your visit is important to me.  I'm sorry I can't come to the website right now... et cetera.

I'm off again, this time until it's over (a week?  two weeks?)  I predict another 6 days.  Too bad there's not some sort of football pool going on.  I might actually make some money that way.

If you're in possession of a call-in phone number to listen in to the festivities live, enjoy it.  Or just show up... it's a public hearing.

If not, transcripts have begun to be posted on the docket.  Go here.  Enter Docket No. ER09-1256 and list sub docket 002 in the correct fields.  Read.
Meanwhile, remember to play fair and be nice, everyone!  Sleep the sleep of the righteous.  A guilty conscience can be like a lead weight attached to your ankle.  Ain't nobody got time for that...
Philanthropy.  It's a good thing when it supports the public enjoyment of the arts, history, or nature.  But where does the line get drawn between philanthropy and tossing money down the toilet?

Do you suppose that the Clean Line executives sing and dance for their investors?  They ought to, since I believe that's all the investors are going to get in exchange for their philanthropy.

It's been a while since we've gotten a look at who's supplying the money that keeps this rickety boat afloat.  During the ICC RICL hearings in December of 2013, we heard that Clean Line was going to be out of money by mid-2014.

But, here they still are... being a nuisance to Mayberry.  Looks like National Grid had to up the ante and kick in another $15M.  And since a 40% share seems to have increased in value, does this mean that other investors have also flushed some more money down the Clean Line potty?  And what about Bank of America?  Didn't one of Clean Line's spinners say the company was getting cash from Bank of America?

If we can believe Clean Line's Grain Belt Express application to the Illinois Commerce Commission, here's a listing of who's to blame for funding this fiasco:

GridAmerica Holdings (National Grid) has invested $55.7M and currently owns 40% of the company.

ZAM Ventures (Ziff brothers) has invested $73.8M and currently is the majority owner, with a 53% stake.

Michael Zilkha has a piddling $2.8M invested, which gives him a 2% ownership interest.

The remaining 5% (or $6.7M) is owned by "Clean Line Investment" which is some vague investment vehicle owned by "service providers and employees of Clean Line."

Total investment:  Around $140M

That's a lot of green that is simply going to disappear when Clean Line's circus tent folds in the middle of the night and the company slips out of town.  But that's okay, I'm sure these savvy investors wouldn't invest money they couldn't afford to lose.

$140M invested and the company still doesn't have even one of its projects fully permitted and ready to build.

In addition, all the interest in the project is coming from non-existent generators.  It really doesn't matter how much Clean Line talks about how much its project is needed by other states in the east, without any contracts, Clean Line will fail.

Dance, Clean Line, dance!!!

Drama, drama, drama.  I'm pretty sure the media over-dramatized the outages in DC yesterday.  Maybe not a bad thing to raise awareness, but they've missed the real message.

OMG - like this outage affected IMPORTANT people doing IMPORTANT things!  Like Pepco is sooooooo bad!

This article covers the basics, and with a few additional details from WaPo's more dramatic version, here's the story:

A hot 230-kV transmission line (conductor) just randomly fell off its tower in Southern Maryland.  No storm.  No damage.  It just broke for no apparent reason.  Live, uninsulated transmission line on the ground started a grass fire.  Lucky it didn't fall on any people, vehicles, etc. that happened to be in the right-of-way at that time.  The fault caused a bunch of other lines and generators to trip offline in self-defense against resulting voltage swings.  And the lights went out many miles away in Washington, D.C.

So, no big deal, faults happen.  But the grid is supposed to be designed so that other lines instantly spring to life and take the load of the one out of service and the fault ends up being nothing more than a barely-noticed blip.  But that didn't happen, it started to cascade to other lines and generators.  Comparison was made to the 2003 northeast blackout, when a fault on a transmission line in Ohio cascaded into a regional blackout.  The concept is quite the same, but the effect not as far-reaching.  Do you suppose we'll need a multi-million dollar government task force to examine the incident?

What's the real problem here?

Lack of maintenance and upgrades to existing transmission lines.  The industry is so busy chasing the big profits that come from building NEW transmission that they aren't investing their money in maintaining the assets already in service.  Perhaps our federal regulatory agencies need to start encouraging maintenance and rebuilds of aging lines with financial incentives?

And then there's the problem of parasites like DC that have no generation of their own and depend on transmission lines from distant generators.  The more transmission lines we build, and the more centralized the system that supplies electricity, the bigger this problem becomes.

Stop it.  Stupid.

Distributed generation and less transmission lines = reliability.

Disturbing news out of Colorado this morning.  The Denver Post reports that the legislature is playing games with funding of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) for the next 10 years.  Without funding and authorization, the OCC will simply cease to exist under Colorado's "sunset" law.

A concerned legislator likened the refusal to deal with the re-funding of the OCC to "Washington, D.C.-style politics."
"If people disagree on the policy, the substance or the process, that's fair; that's what we're each here to do," Garcia said. "But what we're seeing here is Washington, D.C.-style politics where you put something off to the side, and the committee chair doesn't give it due regard until it's too late."
Why is consumer counsel so important?  Because it is the utility consumer's only defense against high rates and utility policy that compromises their interest.  Only the consumer counsel is looking out for residential and small business interests during utility rate cases.  Without the OCC, residential consumers would have no choice but to represent themselves in every utility case before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.  Who can afford the time or expense of that?  Nobody, therefore consumers would be unrepresented.  It's just not true that outside consumer groups, contingency-based lawyers, or class-action lawsuits can take the place of an independent, governmental advocate that defends the interests of all residential and small business consumers.

According to a report prepared last fall, the OCC regularly saves this class of consumers between $40-50 million per year in increased rates.  The cost of this representation is a mere $1.5M/year.  The funding for the OCC comes from fees paid by regulated utilities, not out of the state's general fund.  It costs consumers nothing, and it consistently saves them money.  The report recommends continuing the OCC until 2026.  However, the legislature is ignoring it, and without their nod, the OCC will sunset.

Don't let the Colorado legislature rob you of the representation that keeps your utility bill in check.  Without the OCC, out-of-control rate increases could have you lamenting that "someone" should do something about that.  The OCC is the consumer's "someone," even though most consumers don't even know they exist.  Get educated and take an active role in the processes that control your utility costs -- support the re-funding of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel. 

Halt The Power Lines makes it quick and easy to do your part!  Visit them here to find out how to take action!
I had the pleasure last night of watching the Tennessee Valley Authority's public hearing of their 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), along with some knowledgeable and committed Clean Line opponents from Arkansas.  Well, okay, maybe watching wasn't exactly pleasant due to the incredibly SLOW "high speed" internet service I receive from Frontier that caused the streaming video to pause after every three words, but the company was outstanding!

The goal was to find out more about how TVA is looking at Clean Line through its IRP lens, and the likelihood that TVA may purchase the Plains & Eastern Clean Line's 3500MW payload.  As my Magic 8 Ball is fond of saying, "Don't count on it."

Although viewing from afar, we could tell that the room smelled like pizza and ponies, and could predict with amazing accuracy what the next speaker in line was going to talk about just by viewing the lower half of their outfit, their shoes, and any props they were carrying as they waited their turn at the microphone.  One college student's main goal seemed to be to mention Clean Line.  He was rebuffed by TVA staff, who told him they didn't model any specific transaction, and proceeded to list the different wind resource possibilities that were modeled:  1)  Wind in the TVA footprint; 2) Wind in the Midwest delivered via existing transmission; and 3)  long-distance HVDC wind injection.

Hey, wait a tick, did he say Midwest wind delivered via existing transmission?  So Clean Line is WRONG when it claims that existing transmission lines cannot deliver any new Midwest wind?  Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise!

TVA's patient staff listened to a few pointless climate change speeches that went on way too long.  If there was a point to them that actually related to any specific part of the IRP, I'm not sure what it was.

TVA explained that it had modeled the HVDC option at a 50% capacity factor, however HVDC could not be depended on to actually deliver, so therefore it was modeled differently at peak load times.  That was sort of confusing, considering the clear and concise answers TVA provided to a similar question last June.
TVA analyzes historic and forecasted wind patterns to determine expected wind
deliveries at our system peak. Our forecasting and planning processes reflect
adjustment to wind generation at our summer peaks based on this analysis. Clean
Line has told us that a production profile provided by the independent meteorology
firm, 3Tier Oklahoma, shows that panhandle wind energy produces at about a 50
percent capacity factor between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., thus
contributing to meeting peak demand. TVA's current wind resources produced
about 25 percent average capacity factor over that peak period last summer, with
significant variation each day (between 5 and 65 percent capacity factor). TVA will
take the seasonal and time-of-day energy patterns of wind into account when
evaluating adding additional wind energy to its portfolio.

Because wind is an intermittent resource that lacks some of the dispatch capability
of other resources, it does not eliminate the need for base load or dispatchable
power plants like nuclear, natural gas, coal and hydropower. Adding intermittent
generation resources like wind can be challenging to manage, particularly as the
volume of generation from those sources increases. Wind patterns are fairly
predictable, but not entirely so; in addition, weather and other factors can affect
output. To maintain reliability, a wind energy purchaser must keep adequate
capacity and spinning reserves to cover the variability inherent to wind. Spinning
reserve is typically calculated as the amount of capacity available to cover the loss of the largest generation source on the system.
Utilities across the country have
been integrating more wind into their systems over the last several years, and TVA
already integrates 1,515 megawatts of off-system wind power. The industry has
growing experience with this issue, but it does make ensuring reliability more
Experience requires a 25% capacity factor for wind, but TVA simply took Clean Line's word that it could reliably meet a 50% capacity factor?  Or is 25% the peak load factor TVA used in its IRP?  Message unclear, ask again later!

We were also told that calculating spinning reserve was an operational issue that would be undertaken outside the IRP, and the question about how much that would add to the cost of HVDC wind injection was avoided completely.  So, I guess that question remains unanswered, except for the part of TVA's June 2014 letter that advised TVA would consider all costs in its IRP?
TVA is studying the addition of new wind energy resources as part of the
development of its new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). This process provides
opportunity for public participation. When TVA evaluates the cost of wind energy,
we include the value of the energy itself, as well as the cost to transmit out-of-valley
wind energy to the Tennessee Valley. In addition, there are costs associated with
the intermittent nature of wind generation.
Through the IRP, TVA will rigorously compare wind energy purchases against other alternative sources of energy
(renewables, new and existing TVA generating assets, or purchased power) to serve local power companies and directly-served customers in a cost-effective manner.
Outlook uncertain?  What?  Funny when the written report provides more answers than direct questions to knowledgeable individuals.  And the written IRP says that HVDC wind isn't an option until 2025.  I'm thinking that Clean Line needs to look elsewhere for customers.

If you'd like to watch the video (and you live somewhere out in the sticks where you have "high speed" internet that actually allows you to watch video) you can check it out here.
If I didn't know any better, I'd think that Clean Line's Grain Belt Express Project was trying to unload a whole bunch of 90s beanie babies.  Once upon a time, beanie babies were so popular, it was a seller's market.  Now, you can't give the critters away.

Same deal with GBE.

Big announcement that the results of GBE's open season attracted requests for service totaling more than 4 times available capacity.  Beanie babies for sale!!!

However, GBE's open season didn't attract any buyers for the power in Missouri.  Poor, homeless, unwanted beanie babies!!!

And why would that be?  Because, according to the staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission, none of the utilities in Missouri need to purchase wind power to meet their renewable portfolio standard goals.
"Grain Belt Express has not shown its project is the most cost-effective means of compliance with renewable energy standards in Missouri, as all but one of Missouri's investor owned utilities has already disclosed that it has existing capacity and new contracts that will meet or exceed the 15% renewable portfolio standard target by 2021."

GBE's mouthpiece tried to pretend Missouri was always the intended terminus of his project.
Ten respondents submitted requests for service to deliver some 3,000 MW of power to Missouri, more than six times the available capacity at that delivery station, Lawler said.
“We have 500 MW going to Missouri, which is enough to power 500,000 Missouri homes,” he said. “The rest of it will go farther east, to Illinois and Indiana.”
“Originally we had it all going to Missouri, but the grid there is not robust enough to take full delivery, so we had to bust it up and make an additional delivery point.”
Something got busted up here, and I think it's Clean Line's propensity to make crap up.  The Missouri converter station didn't exist until Clean Line came to the realization that there was NO WAY they could get their project approved in Missouri as long as it was intended as a fly over state to lucrative eastern energy markets.  But, despite Clean Line's offer of beanie baby consolation prizes for Missouri, they're still in serious trouble.
“In Missouri, we’re at the very tail-end of the regulatory process,” Lawler said. “We expect an order from the (Missouri Public Service Commission) in the next couple of months. There is no regulatory time frame (for approval) like there is in Kansas. We expect a decision in the first half of this year.”
Sure, everyone expects an order from the MO PSC, but there's no guarantee that it will be a favorable decision.  How much longer is Clean Line going to pretend everything is hunky dory while the SS Clean Line is rapidly taking on water?  That's awfully brave of them, don't you think?

And what about the rest of the power that's intended to be delivered into PJM's eastern grid... any interest from buyers there?  Nope.  The eastern U.S. doesn't need any beanie babies, either.

So, just like its open season on its Plains & Eastern project, Clean Line is holding a bag full of beanie babies that nobody wants.  None of these generators have been built yet, and won't be built until they have buyers for their product.  Who is going to contract with an unbuilt generator to maybe supply power via an unbuilt transmission line that can't get state approvals?  Utilities hate risk (and beanie babies).

Take a memo, Clean Line:  There's no interest in your product.  The utility industry has been trying to tell you this since your inception.  You just can't overcome the chicken/egg scenario that makes utilities shy away from resource uncertainty.  Yes, I understand Mikey thought they were wrong when he decided to market beanie babies way back in 2009.  But time has been unkind to his beanie baby market.  The sooner he admits it and stops this farce, the better off we'll all be!
Was it only three months ago that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said this?
Branstad, who appoints the members of the utilities board, warned against "political interference" into the administrative review process by which a pipeline carrying Bakken crude oil and a transmission line transporting wind-generated electricity could be approved.

"It would be mistake to get politics into this," Branstad said. "We should abide by the processes that have been put in place."
However, Carol Overland reports that Governor Branstad has changed his mind and made some changes to the Iowa Utilities Board at the urging of MidAmerican Energy.  It doesn't get any more political than this!
An outgoing member of the Iowa Utilities Board has bluntly told Gov. Terry Branstad in a letter that his decision to remove her is improper and being done to placate a powerful energy company.

Sheila Tipton told the governor in the March 18 letter that his move to replace her and demote board chairwoman Elizabeth Jacobs is an inappropriate attempt to influence future decisions to favor utilities and "appease MidAmerican Energy." The company had complained about a ruling requiring the company to use some proceeds from a $280 million wind energy investment to reduce customers' rates.

So, what is Branstad saying here?  Is he saying that the interests of Iowans represented by their elected representatives aren't as powerful as campaign contributions he may receive from energy companies the IUB regulates?

Where I come from, that's called hypocrisy, and it's shameful.  Only when regulators may regulate without political interference can the industry they regulate fail to capture them.  It's time for the voice of the citizens of Iowa to be heard!