Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Who is Michael Skelly" or "Skelly isn't Really all that Smelly"

Michael Skelly is not the antichrist.  He is not evil.  While he is indifferent to the Midwest, he does not want to destroy the world.

That might be the most positive thing I’ve said about the President of Clean Line Energy.    Michael "Scully" Skelly has had an interesting past before becoming the President of Clean Line Energy.  In many ways, when looking at the President of Clean Line Energy's career from a distance, it's an interesting evolution.   As most may know, Michael Skelly was the President of Horizon Wind Energy before selling it to Goldman Sachs and ultimately flipped to EDP Renewables. 

By the looks of things, at Horizon Wind Energy, he learned how to push his way through deals with land owners who were less than agreeable.  Horizon has their "Good Neighbor Agreements" to silence those who didn't want to live next door to his wind turbines.  There was also some small opposition in Washington, but Skelly prevailed and the wind farm was put through.

Before Skelly was hooked up with Zilkha and Zilkha Renewables, he was apart of the Rainforest Aerial Tram Rail in Costa Rica. The Costa Rica Tram Rail videos on YouTube look spectacular.  If I am ever in Costa Rica, the tram rail is the first place I’m going!  The videos are breathtaking.  A few friends of mine and I have talked about this and we think Skelly really could combine ideas here, an aerial tram plus HVDC powerline. 

Make the Rock Island Clean Line Aerial Tram! 

Make a 500 mile aerial tram across Iowa and Illinois! 

Share the towers with a HVDC powerline.  Surly it will be perfectly safe.  To some of us, nothing is more beautiful and breathtaking than fields of corn and beans.  500 miles of corn and beans and crossing the Mississippi….It would be one of the wonders of the world! 

Think about it Skelly.  You can make this work and possibly salvage RICL.  Farmers might feel the honor of a tram rail across their farmland. Chicago and points east would finally realize the beauty of Iowa from the air and hardly impact the ground beyond the 40'X40' footprint of each tower.  The economic benefit to Spenser County Iowa for tourism might even be greater than the benefit of tens of thousands of acres of wind farms!

Getting back to Michael Skelly’s resume and further proof he is not a “Walter White” kind of villain, Skelly spent time working for Energia Global and New World Power early in his career.  As best as I can tell, I think he sold small electrical generator systems (distributed generation of sorts) in Central America.  Before that, I think there was time spent in the Peace Corp and served in Costa Rica. 

Very honorable.  After he got his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, he went to the Peace Corp.  That’s probably one of the most honorable things a guy could do before starting a career.  So best I can tell, Skelly goes to the Peace Corp, then woks to sell Distributed Generation in Central America.

It’s kind of Ironic.  Skelly starts his career selling distributed generation in Central America, something clean, wholesome, and well…making a difference.  Know he finds himself  working for billionaires attempting one of the greatest land thefts in America.  

Yeah, Michael Skelly is a sort of the “Breaking Bad” of the energy world.  He started as good, wholesome and clean Harvard grad and becomes a big business industrialist who will take whatever he wants from anyone in his was.  In any case, the optimist in me still thinks there is some good in Michael Skelly.  

 He’s a Democrat for crying out loud.  He wants to save the world but realizes for the benefit of the many, some farms need to be stepped with 200 foot towers.  Yes, he’s made a series of bad decisions.  He probably originally believed these powerline projects were actually for "clean" wind energy, but as time goes by, compromises have to be made.  By know, he knows "clean"  is a fantasy and a weak marketing point.   

I suspect even now Michael Skelly is looking for the next venture after Clean Line finally goes down.  Maybe I'm reading too much into a man I've never met, but I'd like to think he probably longs for the days in the Peace Corp when he felt as though he was truly making a difference.  Good luck in your next adventure after Clean Line Energy Mike.  

Jimmy G, on the other hand, the more I learn about him, the more I think he's an arrogant piece of ca-ca. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Clean Line Energy Facebook

Hey Hey!! Clean Line Energy has a brand new Facebook Page!   No Really.  The closed down all of the individual Facebook pages,   RICL, GBE, P&ECL, and Centennial West, plus the main CLE Facebook page.   They were AWOL for a few days and now they have opened up shop with a new Facebook page with a “born on” date of September 9th.   

Clean Line Energy has one lonely friend who likes them.

Good luck posting any questions or comments there.   This new Facebook page is under lock down.   Perhaps  Michael Skelly and company are no longer interested in the opinions of the public.   Kind of ironic.  It was just last February Clean Line Energy won an award for its excellent use of social media and here is September and Clean Line Energy has completely lost control of the message on the internet.  

I wonder how many energy companies have learned from this mistake by Clean Line Energy.   Be very careful how you present yourself on Facebook.   A company cannot control the message when it’s open for comments by anyone in the public, and  a company risks losing control of the message when any Joe with a keyboard can leave a message.

Earlier this year, Clean Line briefly put their Facebook page under lockdown.   They opened it back up when they realized it was a huge step backward with their campaign of being an “open”   & “clean” company.  Now that Clean Line has put their new Facebook page under lockdown, the same problem exists.  

It’s apparent Michael Skelly has lost control of the message and this is an attempt to limit input and gain control back through limiting the flow of information.    His attempt to control the message with social media rules failed.  Consequently, this reduces their information quality to the level of mere propaganda.  

In the end, Clean Line Energy cannot silence and ignore the ratepayers who question the value of this project.  This mistake started when he turned over the company's message to an outside company like HDR Engineering.  Never turn over the company's message to a bunch of youngsters just out of college with fresh degrees in marketing and communications.  Looking back, I bet even Mike (Skelly) would admit he would have been better to take the stage and deliver the good and bad news himself.

Now Clean Line is in damage control.  Their attempts to change their image with the new Facebook page are out of desperation.    Gone are the Bicycles Teams with their neat jerseys.   Bicycles have been replaced by banners on the coral at a rodeo.   That was a smart move to take our advice and give it a more rural tone.  

The bicycle team represented disengagement to the targeted rural audience.   Rodeo banners are much more rural and macho.    Actually, the rodeo banners kind of remind me of scenes from the Matt Damon movie Promised Land as the outside corporation attempts to give a home grown appearance with a fair carnival.  

Just a suggestion, maybe next time sponsor a bounce house at the county fairs.  My daughter loves the bounce house.  A free bounce house for kids with HDR Engineering monkeys manning it would be a big draw.

11-14-2013 12:10 p.m. Clean Line Energy Facebook page has disappeared again.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Aspirational - expressing a hope or intention but not creating a legally binding obligation


Used in a sentence;
RI’s financial resources are not currently sufficient to fund the construction ... At best, the information provided regarding access to financing can only be described as “aspirational.””

That is all. Have a good evening.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Letter to Rock Island Clean Line (not through Facebook)

Greeting Clean Line Energy Execs;
                Mike, Jimmy, Adhar, Charlie, Jayshree, Hans, and the rest of you,

I would have sent this letter to the Facebook social media page but it appears all Clean Line Energy Facebook pages have been shut down.  
Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express and the Plains & Eastern Clean Line have done one right.  Clean Line’s merry band has shown the magnitude to mess in the the transmission industry.  Clean Line has introduced us to PJM, MISO, and these ideas of a “need” for more transmission.  These candyland speculation project has provided an excellent education about this messed up under the radar industry. 

When this Clean Line ordeal is done, history is going to show the missteps by Clean Line Energy have been a turning point for consumer involvement in the planning process for new transmission brainstorms.  There’s a story about a certain CLE PR man being a part of a Chicago wind round table discussion where the comment   We’ll tick off a bunch of farmers” was made with a room full of snikers following it.   Yeah Buster, your buddy called that one right, but Clean Line’s mistake was to tick off so many people in such a vast region of so many states. 

I never thought that little feller from Chicago and his bud's would be so prophetic.  Unfortunately, they never realized Clean Line could activate so many in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri.  Our goal isn’t to move RICL off our farms and on to someone else property.  Our goal is to change the industry.  PJM, MISO, FERC, and some state utility commissions need a shakeup. 

We’ve found some great friends along the way in Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Minnesota.  Like us, each of these groups have their own questions about the need for these transmission projects, but Clean Line’s mistake was to take on some many projects that run through so many states.  Clean Line has mistakenly tripled the size of opposition to these unnecessary transmission projects, not just in the numbers of ratepayers, but even more importantly, Clean Line has increased OUR the territory by adding Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri to the mix .  We now come from a much wider region.   Big mistake.

Perhaps Clean Line and the industry’s biggest mistake is they do not truly know us.  They do not have a clue about Rural Sociology, who we are and what we hold dear.  If they’d listen to a little advice, I’d recommend energy industry exec’s buy a book from Gene Logsdon Living and Farming the American Dream at Natures’ Pace.  Logsdon does a good job describing rural America and he also a great blog describing Rural America at The Contrary Farmer.  I don't expect any energy exec's to understand or even this stuff, but he offers a great insight into our Midwest rural society.

His blog Humble Beginnings Humbug does a good job defining us for transmission companies  or a New York City Billionaires who started this project and had no clue who they are about to go up against.  Logsdon is a bit prideful and a tad arrogant but this might give transmission companies an idea who we are.  I still doubt they will understand it, but even still, I just loved this quote of this.

“We gave no quarter in the realm of pride and prejudice and still don’t. If anything we are way too proud. I pity the poor savant of the university system or of Manhattan society who would blunder into our very country neighborhood today and repeat within earshot of my sisters that grand old ivory tower notion about how rural people are too provincial in their outlook.”

Yes, this young spec project company severely underestimated the capabilities of a bunch of farmers.  Clean Line Energy shutting down their Facebook is another example how the Texans fail to understand Midwest Rural America.  There social media "outreach" was a huge failure and shows the inherent problems with transmission company social media.

While Clean Line's Facebook pages were well made,  CLE could not control their content.  It became a sounding board for Midwest opposition that could not be ignored.  There Facebooks pages were an inspiration and tool for all of us.

Even as limited as Clean Line Energy's openness was, allowing us to post comments on something as big as Facebook was a huge problem.  It exposed the weaknesses to everyone.  Clean Line could only hide their hypocrisy so far.

Maybe Clean Line Energy now see their Facebook pages as a potential liability with the upcoming RICL even in Mendota, Illinois September 18th.  Maybe John's comment  pushed Skelly to shut it down for a few weeks as the the public forums and informational meeting are about to get intense and news worthy.  Of course if Clean Line Facebook pages come back up, we ALL are going to slam it more than before.

When GBE and RICL finally fails, history will look back at Clean Line as the defining change in the transmission industry.  We, the people, realize the magnitude of this problem and it’s not just Clean Line.  Heck, Wisconsin has three proposed new powerlines coming into the state because they need more energy, and another six propoesed transmission lines leaving the state.  How absurd is that?   

Just because RICL and GBE will be defeated, the problem will still be there.  There will be more proposed transmission lines, like Duke ATC.

DACT is proposing another HVDC powerline from Iowa.  Maybe they sense the death of RICL and are preparing to step in.  Ameren has their Three Rivers project from Iowa to Illinois.  How many transmission lines from Iowa and Kansas into Illinois do we really “need” for the windmills?   GBE, RICL, 3Rivers, DATC.  This is absurd.

The problem is these companies who realize the potential money isn’t in energy generation but in energy transmission.  The problem is the RTO’s who allow this.  The problem is the assumption that more transmission is needed to solve a need for generation.  It’s becoming obvious there will never be enough transmission for PJM and MISO.  Transmission is literally their middle name for these Regional Transmission Organizations.  Their solution for every problem is more transmission.    New England ISO does a study about the regions wind energy capabilities and NEISO recommends more transmission from the Midwest. 

When this is over, those in the RTO fraternities will come to despise the failed Clean Line projects because they exposed the gravy train of transmission expansion to a huge swath of consumers.  Clean Line has redefined the magnitude of grassroots as a form of “activism” that hasn’t been seen since the CU Powerline in the late 1970’s.   

Tick off a bunch of farmers?  Yeah little buddy you sure did! 

The Farm Journal magazine editorial way back in 1893 described the challenge of energy companies to understand Rural America:  

          “That bright boy, as full of questions and ideas as he is of mischief, has in him
          the material for making a stirring, successful farmer. Answer his questions
          patiently, interest him in the farm work and business by taking him into your 
          confidence and giving him something to do and to think about. 
         As to the dull boy… he can be a lawyer and a politician.” 

…or perhaps even a Clean Line Energy Project Director.  I’d recommend the entire industry spend more time understanding who we are.

A Ticked off Farmer

BTW, Happy Birthday little feller from Chicago.

Monday, September 9, 2013

KCC & GBE; Will the KCC Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride?
I was reading the STOPPATH WV blog and it got me thinking just how naively foolish the Kansas Corporation Commission appears to be.  They actually think the GBE powerline will be beneficial for the state.   Let’s stop and logically think about this for a minute without the aid of happy pills.

How many anchor tenants will GBE have and who will use capacity in the open seasons?

Who is going to pay for the distribution lines to feed GBE?  We are talking about 4,000 MW's of distribution lines to feed into GBE.

Will Sunflower renew their plans to build more coal fired generation to feed GBE?

OK. So there will be a certain amount of anchor tenants from those wind generators who can secure 20 year power purchasing agreements for their wind energy.  But, has the KCC considered how much of the current generation produced in Kansas will leave the state? 

Does anyone really think all 3,500 MW's will come from new sources?

The real opportunity will be for all the current energy generators in Kansas who can send energy east into PJM over GBE or sell the energy in the Southwestern Power Pool.

If the price on the output side of GBE is higher than the local Kansas price of energy, there will be an exodus.   Put simply, if the demand is higher at eastern states, Sunflower and other energy produces in Kansas will send energy east.  This will reduce the supply in Kansas and the cost of energy in Kansas will go up.

This will likely create a scenario where Kansas will find themselves competing for the energy currently produced in their state.  An ENRON scenario is more likely where each buyer is played off the other, the price can be manipulated and the loser would be the ratepayers of Kansas. 

Does the KCC realize they will be encouraging manipulation by speculators and energy traders? 

But hey, the eastern states will appreciate the Jayhawks sacrifice as they can have Kansas energy and without any negative aspects of production in their home states.  Let the energy be produced in a land far far away.  Kansas is just one of those flyover states.  “Nobody really lives there” is the east coast philosophy.   So make Kansas and Iowa "The Generation States". Fill Kansas up with windmills.  South Carolinian won't have to be burdened with windmills off their coast in the Atlantic.  I guess we all need to sacrifice for the majority of people who live near the coastlines.  Let's get back to reality.

Seriously, the KCC really needs to think and study the negative effects the Grain Belt Express powerline can create.  In spite what the CLE reps claim, it's not going to be all rainbows and unicorns.  This can very easily be the new Enron price manipulation model.  Yes, the KCC could believe they are doing a good thing while practicing "Shove-It Down-There-Throats" Economics with a surplus of potential wind energy, but they need to consider the negative side.  This cozy arrangement with the Clean Line people can turn ugly very fast.

Does Kansas really want to "BUY THE TICKET AND TAKE THE RIDE"?   Like the Hunter Thompson quote, if the KCC decides to go down this road of rainbows and unicorns with the Grain Belt Express, there is going to come a time when the KCC realizes it was a mistake and they'll believe it's too late to turn back, at which point the KCC will be seeking a bailout for this endeavor.  

          "Buy the Ticket.  Take the Ride" 

 "Creating, and being involved in, a situation that may get you in way over your head-- but deciding that turning back would be a rather uninteresting option"

There is still time for the KCC to back out any proposed deal with Clean Line.  Listen to the Kansas residents who question Clean Line’s treatment.  Does the KCC really think Clean Line will be less deceitful with them than the state's residents?