Sunday, March 30, 2014

CLEP & HVDC Using Yesterday's Technology Tomorrow

We live in a weird world.  Voice of Russia picked up a story about Clean Line Energy Partner’s attempt to obtain right of way easements for the company’s speculation projects to deliver energy from the Midwest to east coast states.  “Voice of Russia”…no not Voice of America tells the story of Midwest Farmers fighting government bureaucracy and billionaires who intend to sell this project once the right of way is obtained.  Kind of a dark irony Russia picks up this story. 

Makes me wonder what happened to this country when the government works to take land away from American’s to advance a political agenda tied to billionaires money.  Then again maybe this fight has always been a part of America’s history.  Like Margaret Mitchell wrote  “The land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts."  There are plenty of examples in America’s history where David fought Goliath.  Farmers fighting corporate interests is America’s history.

Well, this is America, and the fight isn’t over.  Hopefully the Voice of Russia keeps watching the progress of those blocking GBE, RICL and CLEP.  Americans have a proud history of fighting for a little piece of dirt.  It’s just as much a part of Amercia’s history as innovation.  Thinking about the last post, it’s good to see an American CEO at NRG Energy call transmission projects like RICL, GBE and P&ECL “white elephants”.  It’s even better to read an energy company’s CEO say it is fortunate America didn’t go for the transmission lines from sea to shining sea for the windmills.

Innovation is still alive in America.  David Crane and NRG Energy shows potential with a vision of America’s energy future.  Some corporate leaders look to reinvent and reinvigorate a tired industry with a century old business model and other CEO’s parade white elephants bragging about using yesterday’s technology tomorrow.  That should be Clean Line’s mission statement.

Clean Line Energy Partners, using yesterday’s technology tomorrow to create an even dumber grid.

Clean Line brags about proposing to use old out dated technology where any consumer can see a 3,500MW HVDC powerline can make the grid less reliable.  Here’s two more quote from David Crane.  This is the future of America’s energy industry.

"You can strengthen the system all you want, but if you accept that we’re in the first stage of adaptation, the system from the 1930s isn’t going to work in the long term.”

“I don’t understand why it’s so shocking [to imagine a scenario] where the grid is, at best, an antiquated backup system to a different way of buying electricity,”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pointless White Elephant

It’s not often there is an industry leader with a vision of the future that really excites me and this energy industry is full of people who lack a vision.  NRG Energy’s CEO David Crane makes a powerful statement and is so bold to put it on the company’s website.  It’s worth reading.  This is the future of the energy industry.

There is no Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google in the American energy industry today.
There is no energy company that relates to the American energy consumer by offering a comprehensive or seamless solution to the individual's energy needs.
There is no energy company that connects the consumer with their own energy-generating potential.
There is no energy company that enables the consumer to make their own energy choices.
There is no energy company that empowers the individual wherever they are, whatever they are doing, for however long they are doing it.

This guy has an idea how to transform the alternate energy retail supplier business.  In an industry that is so stuffy where few have imagination it’s refreshing to hear these words 

Why can’t an energy company connect my smartphone to their smart meter.

Why should I want a smart freezer or smart refrigerator so it can communicate with the electric company but it’s unable to communicate with me?

Consumers don’t want to give up control and become disconnected to their dishwasher.  Consumers want to be enabled to gain more control of their energy usage.  Consumers want an energy company that isn’t afraid to engage them and provide tools for managing their own energy usage.

David Crane went on further with his letter. 

Just a few years ago the prevailing wisdom was that the path to a clean energy economy depended on our collective willingness to build a nationwide, high voltage transmission system in order to transport electricity in vast quantities from the relentlessly windy and brutally sunny parts of the country, where people generally don't live, to the more moderate places where Americans tend to congregate. The folly of that idea thankfully was realized before anyone actually began to build such an expensive and pointless white elephant. Now we are headed for the same goal BUT in the opposite direction: down the path towards a distributed generation-centric, clean energy future featuring individual choice and the empowerment of the American energy consumer.
The only real question is how quickly will this future occur?

How about that!  Here’s an energy company that has no connection to Iowa, Kansas, or Illinois and he calls projects exactly like RICL and GBE  as “POINTLESS WHITE ELEPHANTS”.


I just wonder how long will it take FERC and the state regulatory commissions to recognize these projects for what they are, pointless white elephants.  I wonder how long it will take the investors in Clean Line Energy Partners to realize they are being taken for a ride on top of a white elephant.  Just like a pony ride at the county fair, this one keeps going around in circles until it’s time to pay up again. 

It’s great to hear a CEO from an energy company recognize transmission from the Midwest as a folly and there are better solutions.  There aren't many energy companies whose leaders has a good grasp of the future.  I'll be following NRG Energy closely.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clean Line Dir of Development can supply $20/MW Wind from Kansas

Grain Belt Express says wind energy can be produced and sold for $20/MW from Kansas wind farms! 

This probably wasn’t a headline making news article, but The St. Joseph Missouri News-Press Now quotes Clean Line Energy’s Grain Belt Express Director of Development, Mark Lawlor as saying wind energy can be generated for $20/MWH and sold over GBE for another twenty bucks, with a total cost of $40/MWH.

HOLY CA-CA!!!!  Here’s a quote from the paper.

“This will be clean, cost-effective energy,” said Mark Lawlor, Clean Line’s development director. “It will pay about $30,000 per mile in taxes, which will mostly go to schools. Missouri will be able to buy about 500 of those megawatts.”

The electricity will cost about 2 cents to produce a kilowatt hour and another 2 cents a kilowatt hour to transport, Mr. Lawlor said.

That’s a very economical competitive price.  Seriously, the paper quotes and attributes Mark Lawlor to making such an outlandish claim.  It’s surprising partly because, for one thing, Clean Line Energy Partners (CLEP) has given no confirmation how much wind energy will cost over the Rock Island Clean Line (RICL).  Second, CLEP will not say how much they will charge for their services over RICL.  Keep in mind GBE is about 50% longer than RICL (more overhead).  Third, cost estimates have only gone up as more equipment is added to these proposed projects for reliability.  Finally, (fourth) with the Big Sky Wind Farm going bankrupt in Illinois and changing ownership while selling energy at the Locational Marginal Price (LMP or the open market price), it was easily interpreted that wind farms cannot compete without sweetheart 20 year Power Purchasing Agreements at premium prices.

Is Mark Lawlor suggesting the wind blows so much more in southwest Kansas, that wind energy can be competitive at lower prices to cover fixed costs more easily?

The claim by Lawlor that wind energy wheeled over the Grain Belt Express will be charged $20/MW is also most interesting.  (2 cents per kilowatt equals $20 per megawatt.)  The best and most reliable reference from CLEP to an actual charge for one of their transmission projects was previously at $25/MW.  If you can’t believe a Clean Line Energy report to MISO as being half hearted close to accurate, what can you assume to be a fairly accurate forward focused projection? 

So Mark Lawlor claims wind energy from Kansas can be generated for $20/MW and sold for another $20/MW for a total cost of $40/MW.  I suspect this is another example of Clean Line Energy Partners making outlandish unsubstantiated claims to the Missouri media in an attempt to sway public opinion before Clean Line files for approval from Missouri utility regulators. 

Like Keryn at STOPPATHWV reported, the Missouri Landowners Alliance has filed a complaint  to the Missouri PSC about CLEP’s use of propaganda tactics. The alliance has protested CLEP’s practice’ of making any outlandish claim before filing with the Missouri PSC in order to sway public opinion to effectively sway the PSC’s opinion.  When the time comes for hearing for GBE’s approval these claims to the media will be long forgotten and ignored. 

So, is Mark Lawlor prepared to take a witness stand and state under oath the Grain Belt Express can and will supply electricity to eastern states for $40/MW? 

If I were Mr. Lawlor, I’d start getting nervous about making such claims.  It’s quite balzy.  Hans Detweiler, Mark’s peer for the RICL project wouldn’t even make such a claim, and we’ve been daring him for over a year to tell us how much this energy will cost.  Maybe GBE has wind energy companies lined up willing and able to supply energy for forty bucks.  If that’s the case, I’m impressed.  I might suggest to Clean Line Energy this should be their selling point to the media, but no wind energy company has come forward ready and willing to sell wind energy for $20 without the federal Production Tax Credit.

One last thing, let’s talk about Lawlor’s claim that the powerline will generate $30,000 per mile in tax revenue and most of it will go “to the schools”.  Isn’t Iowa’s replacement tax of $7,000 per mile to cover loss in farmland property values and subsequent loss of tax income?  Wasn’t Clean Line Energy pressuring Illinois counties to sign on for a $7,000 per mile for only twenty years in lieu of property taxes?   One year ago this blog was commenting how foolish it was for Whiteside, Henry, and Rock Island counties to be willing to accept RICL’s offer for $7,000 mile so quickly.  Suckers.

Looks like that $7,000 has gone up to $30,000.  Way to go Whiteside, Henry and Rock Island county boards!  You really showed Clean Line Energy who is a foolish negotiator.  In case anyone is still having trouble with the math here, 30,000 is greater than 4 times more than 7,000. 

So, is this just another case where Mark Lawlor will promise anything before CLEP files with the Missouri PSC or has the monetary offer to the counties gone up dramatically now that Missouri counties are rescinding their support for Clean Line Energy Partners?  In either case, good luck getting anything substantive in writing from Clean Line Energy Partners.  A quote from a newspaper article is about as good as anyone can get out of a Clean Line Energy Partners Director of Development. 

You can bet someone will be saving this St. Joseph article for future reference, but right now, I am hearing a giant swirling sound coming out of Missouri as these projects are about to be flushed.