Sunday, January 27, 2013

Clean Line Energy, Personal Attacks, Personalized Opposition, and Social Media Rules

Make no mistake, this is not a person attack against any one person. Clean Line Energy is not a nameless and faceless organization. Like any other company this company is made up of people. These people need to be held accountable for what they say, and don’t say, what they distort, and hide from the public. It is wrong for members of this company to inaccurately present themselves in a manner to specifically sell this project to the public.

This is not about making personal attacks against individuals of Clean Line Energy, but it is fair to respond to the claims by members of Clean Line Energy. For instance, if a member of Clean Line Energy had told a landowner that the company had not applied with the Illinois Commerce Commission when Clean Line actually had filed with the ICC, would it be a personal attack to repeat what the Vice President of the company had said to an individual? No, this would be fair and accurate, and there are reports that this scenario actually happened.

Is it a personal attack or just speaking the truth to remind people the money behind Clean Line Energy comes from a billionaire in Texas and three billionaire brothers from Park Avenue, New York City? No, this is personalizing an ambiguous company.

It is not a personal attack against Hans Detweiller to remind people Hans hasn’t been completely accurate to say, best of all, residents in northwest Iowa would see no increase in their electric bills to pay for the project. Clean Line Energy has made similar implication in Illinois also but the company has been quietly seeking to have Illinois and other states pay for this powerline through our electric bills. Clean Line Energy has never publicly acknowledged they desire consumers to pay for their powerline. This is a misrepresentation at best. It’s a sell job by the Clean Line Energy salesman (Hans Detweiler). It’s the same sell job coal, nuclear, fracking, and whatever other business does to the public.

Why hasn’t Clean Line Energy’s spokesman explained why the company believes captive ratepayer should pay for a “Merchant Transmission Line” when the company supposedly accepts all the “risk and rewards”?

Why is he attempting to sell the public on this project and not talk about the costs to consumers?
Clean Line Energy is proposing 4,000 MW’s of wind energy in Northern Iowa. No, I do not live in Northern Iowa, but in Illinois, we are the recipient of this energy and a good portion of this unnecessary powerline. If each wind turbine is rated at 2MW’s, 4,000 MW’s of wind energy is 2,000 wind turbines. If each wind turbine requires 65 acres of land, that is 130,000 acres of additional wind turbines in Northwestern Iowa. That is an additional 203 square miles of wind farms surrounding the start of this powerline. Northwest Iowa residents will need to decide how many wind turbines in their back yard is too many?

In a recent debate about wind farms at the National Review Online Jimmy Glotfelty, a Vice President of Clean Line Energy made a comment about wind farms;

“You know…I agree with you….but the fact is, that there is not one single landowner that has been forced to put a wind turbine on his property. It is their land and their choice to make revenue (about 10k per turbine per year)…really no different from a cell tower or radio tower..”

(Go to the link above and read further.  I think somebody violated corporate social media rules @ National Review Online!)  I wonder if the Mr. Skelly made all their employees sign a paper promising they will not violate the company's Social Media Rules.  Good luck finding it on this link, but it's there!

Yes it is true, there is no imminent domain to force land owners to put wind turbines on their property. Yet, if Clean Line Energy is successful, Jimmy Glotfelty and Clean Line Energy will be forcing landowners to put this powerline allegedly for wind energy on our farmland. Yes, this is a personal issue for farmers and landowners and rather to talk directly to the farmers and landowners, Clean Line elects to talk to through the press or use surrogate companies like HDR Engineering to speak to the public.

It is understandable for the public along the route to find it offensive when spokesmen for Clean Line Energy intentionally speak in half truths. It doesn’t matter if it is coal, fracking, or wind energy. A con job is a con job. Clean Line Energy is using the same tactics to build this powerline as these other industries except Clean Line makes additional claims this is for ”clean” renewable energy.

While Iowa landowners have a choice whether or not to put windmills on their farmland, should RICL receive public utility status, Illinois farmers will not have this choice for the powerline for “clean” wind energy. Personally, I believe this energy is overpriced, but the spokesman of Clean Line Energy (Hans Detweiler, still has not told Illinois residents how much this electricity will cost us). I do not object to “renewable” energy, but I do believe it is time wind energy becomes competitive with other more economical forms of energy.

How much more does America need to accommodate the wind energy industry?

In the 1970’s PURPA was created, an act by Congress that allows the wind energy industry to not abide by the rules of other energy producers. Energy Companies are force to buy wind energy created by others. The Production Tax Credit was created with as the federal government subsidizing the wind industry. Then Renewable Portfolio Standards were created to mandate a certain percentage of energy must be from approved “renewable” sources. After that the wind industry told America it needs Long-Term Power Purchase Agreements where wind energy is bought with a surcharge premium. Now the wind industry is complaining because Alternate Energy Retail Suppliers are able to provide electricity cheaper by not buying the overpriced Long-Term Power Purchasing Agreements.

How much more does the industry need the rules bent in their favor?

When is it enough?

We are now asked to give our land for special powerlines allegedly for the “wind energy industry” when there is no guarantee this powerline will not be used by the coal industry. Really?

Have we not sacrificed enough and paid enough of a premium for wind energy?

Is it not time for the wind industry to compete on a level playing field with other forms of energy?
Must Illinois farmers be asked to sacrifice more for an industry that either cannot compete or is quietly making themselves rich off of consumers, deregulation and the ability to bend every rule in their favor?

Must Illinois farmers be forced to give up land for a powerline owner by venture capital billionaires who, if successful, will eventually sell the powerline for a larger profit?

Do we really need to “sacrifice” for billionaires Milchael Zilkha and the Ziff Brothers to make more money? No, this this is not a personal attack. It’s a legitimate question.

What assurances are there this powerline won’t be bought by a traditional power company and place 100% coal energy on this powerline? None. FERC has said Clean Line cannot discriminate or play favorites with potential suppliers. FERC has also said this powerline can have only one customer to supplier 100% of the power, even coal.

Have we not made enough concessions for the wind industry and those who desire to be associated with this industry?

While representatives of Clean Line Energy make claims that this powerline will make Northwestern Iowa wealthier, is this powerline really in the best interest of farmers and landowners along the line or in communities where there needs to be 130,000 acres of wind turbines? Has other industries made similar claims? Coal? Natural gas? Oil?

Have these claims ever found to be true?

Make no mistake, this powerline is the new frontline in America’s Energy War.

Is this a personal attack?  No.  This is personalized opposition to a company.  If this is a violation of a company's social media be it!  Somebody has to call it like it is.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Clean Line FERC & Federal Eminent Domain

Last Summer Clean Line Energy Partners, d.b.a. Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate a powerline from  Spencer County, Iowa to Channahon, Illinois as a “Merchant Transmission Line”. In 2011 while denying the existence to Illinois landowners, RICL had petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission to be classified as a “public utility” in our state.  Last September RICL withdrew the petition and reapplied again to the Illinois Commerce Commission in October 2012.

Since that time, RICL has quietly worked to circumvent the Illinois Commerce Commission should the ICC deny RICL's request to become a public utility in Illinois.  Back in March 2012 Clean Line was writing to the Department of Labor about a need for “Federal Siting Authority” (1).  RICL then approaches PJM Regional Transmission Organization in September about having the costs of the powerline allocated across the states of the MSIO and PJM regions (6).  RICL was denied by PJM to force ratepayers to pay for their powerline.

Last November at a conference in Nashville about renewable energy Clean Line Energy’s Jimmy Glotfelty gave a presentation.  FERC Commissioner John Norris was also a featured guest.  The next day the FERC Commissioner John Norris writes a statement on FERC's Policy Statement on Electric Transmission Rate Incentives with a very positive review about renewables and the “need” for further transmission for the renewable energy industry (5).  Shortly after that conference, we find a petition by Jimmy Glotfelty asking FERC to force PJM’s to allow RICL to allocate costs of the powerline to ratepayers of several states under FERC’s Order No. 1000 (2).

On December 10, RICL filed a protest before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow RICL to charge the customers for the cost of building this powerline (2).  RICL is protesting PJM, the Regional Transmission Organization’s application of FERC’s Order No. 1000.  RICL has not publicly talked about any of these maneuvers.  There has been no press conference or announcement by RICL to the local paper but RICL is attempting to slide this through without the public’s knowledge.  
Fortunately, the ICC has filed a petitioned to intervene and is against Clean Line Energy's request (3), as well as an organization of states in the PJM region (4).   If Clean Line is successful, the next step will be to obtain eminent domain from FERC through "federal siting authority" under FERC’s Order No. 1000. (7&8)   
While RICL is a local issue to the residents of Northern Illinois, including Grundy, LaSalle, Bureau, Henry, Rock Island, and Whiteside Counties, this company is preparing for a long fight.  This powerline could very likely become a national eminent domain issue through Clean Line’s interpretation FERC’s Order No. 1000 and the Federal Energy Commission’s desire to for a transmission line to create “federal siting authority”  (federal eminent domain).  It is not known that the company is directly working towards “federal siting authority”. It is known RICL believe “federal siting authority” is necessary and based on RICL’s actions the company has not disclosed, it is reasonable to expect the company to seek “federal siting authority”.

What ever happened to economically priced energy?  When are wind energy companies going to be held to the same standards and regulatory compliance as Exelon, Ameren, or Midwest Generation?  Why is the federal government (FERC) looking to force private landowners through federal siting authority (eminent domain) to give our land for powerlines specifically for wind energy when the energy is not needed and the energy is overpriced?  A need for more energy has not been demonstrated.  It has only been argued that there is a “need” for more wind energy.

There are some who say the RICL powerline is a state issue and not a national issue.  Yes, it is a state issue.  There needs to be greater supervision from state regulators for wind energy.  Renewable Portfolio Standards or “Public Policy Statement” should not expose ratepayers to pay an exorbitant price for wind energy.  Wind Energy Companies should be regulated and forced to sell electricity at the same market price Ameren and Exelon sell energy into the market.  Yes, it is good to have some renewable energy in a state's portfolio of different types of energy, but all energy companies need to compete.  As consumers, we should not be forced to pay for the cost of powerlines on the scale of RICL when the energy is not needed.

The RICL powerline is also a federal issue.  If FERC approves Clean Line’s petition, consumers will be paying to build this companies “merchant” transmission line.   The company accepted the potential risk and rewards as a “merchant” transmission line.  Clean Line Energy Petition to the ICC (Docket 12-0560) was not even submitted to the ICC.  Yet, we have proof through a letter submitted to the PJM Regional Transmission Authority that RICL was already requesting cost allocation approval in September 2012.  Hans Detweiler of RICL was running around Northern Illinois having meeting with state and county officials during last summer and fall plus all the newspapers, but he never once stated the “merchant” transmission line intends to force the consumers to pay for building the powerline to the windmills across Iowa.  There is a letter from Clean Line Energy to the PJM Regional Transmission Organization from last September discussing Clean Line’s desire to have PJM’s approval for cost allocation, but the company intentional kept this hidden from the public.

Cost allocation was never discussed at any public informational meeting.  I seriously doubt cost allocation to the consumer was discussed in any private meetings RICL had with local government officials.  The only thing stated was the virtues of a “merchant” line.  The powerline has not been strung one mile of line and the company is now working towards a federal trump card should the ICC not approve their application to become a public utility and give Clean Line eminent domain powers through the federal government.

The ICC and Organization of PJM States have also filed a motion to intervene and comments at FERC arguing the states have a right to decide their own fate and a right to represent their own residents.  FERC should not be deciding which states Public Policy Statements are relevant and how they should be implemented.  FERC should not be requiring all states in a region to pay for projects like RICL.  This is a matter for the states to work out amongst themselves.  Some suspect FERC is using state’s Public Policy Statements like Renewable Portfolio Standards as an excuse to take authority and representation away from the states, like the Illinois Commerce Commission.  FERC is not representing the interest of the consumers with its Order No. 1000.  FERC is using Clean Line Energy with its RICL project as a means to take authority away from the states and consumers to advance big business and FERC’s objectives of more powerlines everywhere.

What ever happened to the concept of economically priced energy?

Our government's priorities have become so misguided if cost does not matter when considering the virtues of "clean" energy.

The Rock Island Clean Line is also a local issue at the county level.  Last fall RICL went to the county boards seeking their approval and offering a payment of $7,000 per mile for 20 years to gain the county board’s support and assistance with working the powerline through the township boards and road commissioners.  Those county boards that approved such agreement            s need to be aware of the level of deception in  RICL’s management and questions the ethics of a company that desires to work within the public’s trust. 

Michael Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty of Clean Line have had one do-over with the Illinois Commerce Commission for state approval.  Clean Line is in the process of another do-over with FERC attending public informational meeting for a sister project.  If Clean Line and RICL wants to follow the Cost Allocation Model, they need to have a do-over with for FERC’s approval of the RICL project.  It’s absolutely ridiculous RICL wants to change in midcourse from the merchant model to some modified cost allocation model.  This is sneaky, deceitful, and dishonest.   RICL did not represent themselves in this manner to the residents of Illinois.

At the time, we, the residents of Illinois, ask the county board to not entertain any offers with RICL that may be on the table until RICL comes "Clean" with their intent.  The company needs to explain to the residents of northern Illinois their true intent.  RICL needs to explain to this board and why it didn’t inform us about their actions with FERC.  RICL presented themselves to all of us as a Merchant Transmission Line.  This was clearly not their intent and the county board needs to be aware of RICL’s actions

RICL has had a do-over with the ICC.  RICL is attempting another do-over to obtain cost allocation from FERC.  If RICL is denied public utility status by the ICC, it is reasonable to expect RICL to ask FERC for “federal siting authority”, another do-over.  If this unnecessary powerline is built, there will be no do-over for Illinois landowners.  If this powerline is not profitable, the only do-over will be forcing consumers to pay more for this powerline. 

With Clean Line’s recent actions, it is not unreasonable for the Illinois residents, county boards, or the ICC to inquire about RICL’s intent, cost allocation to the ratepayers, and federal siting authority.

Yes, I firmly believe federal eminent domain is coming should the ICC deny RICL’s request.

(1)  Jashree Desai’s Letter to DoE
(2)  Clean Line Energy’s Protest to FERC asking for Cost Allocations
(3)  Illinois Commerce Commissions Comments on Clean Line’s Protest 
(4)  Organization of PJM States Inc. Comments on Clean Line’s Protest  
(5)  FERC Commissioner John Norris’s statement about Order No. 1000 benefiting Renewables
(6)  Clean Line to PJM about cost allocation
(7)  Opinion on OPSI Comments against Clean Line’s Protest
(9)  FERC approval and authorizing RICL

Monday, January 14, 2013

Creating Multistate Transmission Siting Authorities

This is a great read about how legislation is created at the state level through bill mills.  I highly encourage reading this blog on the Council of State Governments.  Their idea of Transmission Siting Interstate Compacts is quite disturber.  Like Keryn Newman says, this seems to be an automatic approval process with the only possible outcome being approval and the (NIMBY) public has no voice in this situation.    Transmission Siting Interstate Compact Neutralizes State Authority
The Power Line

Please, go there and read these.  It’s far better than anything I’ve written bellow.

Aside from industry lobbying, it looks to me states fear FERC trumping them with Federal Siting Authority, so they set up  Mini-FERC's with interstate transmission siting compacts to automatically approve projects before the feds can override state’s vetoes.   It is understandable transmission company’s feel their multistate projects do not receive the recognition they feel the projects deserve (arrogance and a contempt for the “nimby” public, but I would argue the current system is better with slight modifications.   Yes, there is clearly a bias from FERC that needs to be recognized for wanting more transmission for any reason.  Because of FERC’s prejudice towards more transmission projects of any kind regardless of reason, large multistate projects deserve more scrutiny from the states, not less.

The idea of less oversight for large multistate projects scares the hell out of me.  The current system offers better checks and balances with projects requiring seeking approval in multiple states.  More hoops should be jumped through for larger projects and not less for larger projects.  Project approval should face a process of checks and balances and not a one stop automatic approval.   If a project runs from Iowa, through Illinois and into Indiana, the project’s owners should jump through three hurdles and not one joint hurdle.

The other state commissions should be intervening in each other's states to provide better checks and balance.  In this example, the Iowa commission's voice should be heard in Indiana.  Iowa is a stakeholder in this, and their opinion should matter in the other states.   If Combined Multistate Transmission Siting is approved, future projects are going to be bigger rather than smaller for the sake of easier approval.  Two state projects will be avoided.

In the end, there is no emphasis on economically priced energy with Combined Multistate Transmission Siting.  More transmission is encouraged rather than more localized generation.  Potential Projects compare themselves to alternate routes or alternate projects.  Local generation through local sources is not considered.  If there is truly a "need" shouldn't it come from generation and long term jobs rather than transmission and short term construction jobs?   It would be smarter for states to seek energy independence policies that encourage economical local generation rather than multistate transmission projects.

The Council of State Governments website recommended this  ISO New England Report.  It’s interesting the New England states ask for a report from the ISO about New England’s capabilities to create renewable energy and the RTO provides an Appendix E which says building powerlines to the Midwest will provide a lower priced energy from coal power.    When “transmission” is indeed an RTO’s middle name, the solution for everything is more transmission.   Ask for a report about the potential for local renewables and receive a report saying building more powerlines to the Midwest is the answer.  Do Regional Transmission Organizations have only one tool in their toolbox?  More powerlines.

The only tool in the RTO’s toolbox is a hammer and every problem is a nail.   The solution to everything is building more powerlines for energy that is far away.  What is even more absurd from this report’s expert view of natural gas energy being expensive while Midwest coal energy and increased transmission is considered economical.

Do RTO’s ever consider the opportunities within the region or only look at opportunities elsewhere for an excuse to create more transmission?

No, state commissions  have not lost there relevance.

Friday, January 11, 2013

FERCenese and FRICL

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”  --Douglas Adams

I don’t know what it is.  Maybe living under powerlines all your life affects the brain.  Maybe the brain is slowly destroyed from working inside the D.C. Beltway, but who writes like Jimmy Glotfelty of Clean Line Energy did in 2009?

Whichever approach is taken, the Commission should ensure that the manner in which these projects are incorporated takes due account of the differences between merchant and participant-funded transmission projects, on the one hand, and transmission upgrades that are included in the rates paid by captive transmission customers, on the other hand. Where an independent developer of a merchant or participant-funded transmission project is willing to assume the financial risks of the project, the planning process does not need to consider whether transmission customers are being asked to pay for transmission facilities that may not be necessary in the relevant planning horizon. Instead, the planning process should focus on ensuring that the project can be safely, securely, and reliably interconnected with the transmission system. The planning process should also recognize that flows over a transmission project that uses HVDC technology to facilitate long-distance transmission of renewable energy are physically separate from the AC transmission systems to which it interconnects. Such projects should not be studied as though they are AC projects that necessarily have far more variable effects on existing AC transmission facilities.

I read and reread that paragraph from Clean Line until it started to hurt.  Perhaps dissecting it word by word would help.  Nope.   Maybe this paragraph needs dissecting each sentence to the  subject, verb, predicate, and all that.  Seriously, who writes like this?  D.C. lawyers perhaps.  Plain English is much nicer to read than FERCenese.  I finally had to phone a friend.  Keryn was a help interpretating  Jimmy’s FERCenese.    Maybe someday, I’ll be able to read FERCenese better, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write in this sub-dialect of the English language

What we think Jimmy Glotfelty is saying in October 2009 before Order 1000 and under Order 890 is that RICL and its sisters are not "needed" in a traditional sense.  It also makes much of the fact that their HVDC projects do not connect into the AC system like other AC lines do so therefore, any study undertaken by a RTO should be nothing more than minimal.  He wants to be included in regional planning, but doesn't want to be held to the same standards that everyone else is.  

This was written in 2009 before FERC Order No. 1000 was handed down from the mountain top.  Clean Line was making an argument that current regulations shouldn’t apply to them because they are “Merchant Transmission Line”, and as such, relevance and need should not matter.   Clean Line projects should not be considered in the relevant planning horizons. Only safety, security, and reliability should be considered when reviewing a merchant line because merchant line accepts the risk and rewards.

Today we have Clean Line saying that their HVDC projects will provide regional reliability benefits as a way of having a portion of RICL construction costs allocated to captive ratepayers. Clean Line is protesting PJM because they are not included in the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan.    So in 2009 RICL doesn’t want to be considered a part of a regional transmission plan because it is a Merchant Transmission Line.  It was probably easier to gain FERC approval if relevance and benefit was not considered to closely.   Today Clean Line thinks it deserves to be a part of a regional transmission plan because it wants cost allocation from captive customers.  

This could put Clean Line in a precarious position as the Illinois Commerce Commission is attempting to determine the company’s relevance and benefit.  When Clean Line tells FERC in 2009 relevance is irrelevant, how do you come back and tell the ICC the Rock Island Clean Line is both relevant and beneficial to the state?  I guess when you change the rules as you go anything is possible.

To put in plainer English without the FERenese, Clean Line is being a childish playground bully who constantly wants the rules to the game changed in their favor.   They wanted less oversite as a Merchant Transmission Line.  Now they are crying to FERC that PJM is not treating the same as Ameren and Mid American Energy.  This is absurdly ridiculous or maybe another Douglas Adam’s quote applies to Jimmy Glotfelty’s logic
He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.

Back in 2009 someone did have the basic foresite to call the current situation correctly.  The Organization of MISO States (OMS) explained the importance of state regulators and their ability to handle these problems and challenges on the state level. 

The OMS cautions, however, that in its efforts to facilitate transmission investment, the Commission should not abandon principles that have served the industry well for decades.  Given the high stakes for the nation in effective energy policy, the Commission must ensure that the processes being developed for regional and inter-regional transmission planning and the practices for transmission cost allocation provide for the nation’s future energy needs, while
recognizing individual states’ interests in ensuring the reliable service to retail customers at reasonable rates.

If the ongoing regional and inter-regional grassroots efforts to develop policy solutions are able to produce broad consensus, or at least a common understanding regarding solutions, such solutions would create a strong foundation of industry certainty that would likely have more permanence than federally imposed solutions.

Well said OMS!  Let issues be worked out by the states and not the federal government.  The states look at all the concerns better and keep focused on economically priced energy rather than taking the “We’re from the federal government and we’re here to “help” by taking over with centralized playing” approach.   While the current proposal by OMS scares me, they predicted the problems a poorly written Order No. 1000 would create.

Then again, maybe FERC Order No. 1000 wasn’t written out of arrogance and a desire for federal power.  Maybe there was some good intention.  Maybe one more Douglas Adams quote applies to Order No. 1000 and its creators.

"He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which."