Sunday, April 20, 2014

America's "Worn Out" yet Underutilized Grid.

I just drove home from St. Louis for Easter weekend.   Most people probably don’t notice the high voltage distribution and transmission lines  in their travels.  Mike Skelly probably does.  He can probably tell us the extra capacity on every line Horizon Wind Energy feeds, the “low hanging fruit” as he calls it. 

Driving up Interstate 55 and Interstate 39 through Bloomington got me thinking.  There’s that one solo wind turbine on the south side of I55 and most likely within Normal city limits.  That turbine hasn’t spun for months and months.  It is kind of ironic, the wind turbine closest to the Illinois State University wind technology program looks to be broke down.   It will be interesting when that wind turbine starts spinning again. It is a nice view from the top of this turbine at the end of I39.

The remainder of those wind turbines to the north and west of Bloomington are what I really found interesting.   Outside of the CREZ overpriced projects in Texas, there hasn’t been many, if any, transmission lines built specifically for wind energy.  The majority, if not nearly all, the wind farms have piggybacked off existing underutilized transmission lines. 

Funny how the same people who say America’s grid is old and worn out have found so many   Seriously, how old is America’s grid if we’ve been able to add so much wind energy to the grid across the Midwest?  Seems to me America’s grid has had an amazing amount of over capacity with 100 megawatts here and 200 megawatts there.  America’s grid isn’t old and worn out.  It’s been underutilized.  Imagine how long we’ve been paying for unused grid capacity.
locations near transmission lines to site their wind farms.

Mike Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty like to make references between America’s grid and the interstate highway system.  Unfortunately, FERC and the Department of Energy don’t even know the capacity of America’s grid.  It’s amazing it can even be determined when we need more grid capacity when they don’t even know the current capacity.

Heck, at least the we have a roadmap of the US highway system.  Civil engineers at the Department of Transportation know exactly how much capacity there is and when we’ve reach and peaked capacity of the highway system.  That’s more than can be said about the Department of Energy.  Next time you’re traveling the interstate and see a wind farm, look for the transmission line, then think about those transmission lines were there long before the wind turbines being paid through ratepayer cost allocation and wasting away.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

FERC'r John Norris - Advocate for Consumers? Doubtful

CLEP (Clean Line Energy Partners) probably didn't take the opposition to their business plans too seriously.  Looking in to the past opposition to Horizon Wind and Zilkha Renewable Energy, there was some opposition to their projects, but Zilkha and Skelly didn't lose to local opposition.  The guys at CLEP probably weren't expecting the massive multi-state opposition from ratepayers they are now facing.  For CLEP, the poop is getting closer to the fan (or wind turbine) these days with increased opposition in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Illinois.  When CLEP finally does fall apart and self-destruct the shrapnel will is going to fall on many of CLEP’s supporters. 

One of CLEP’s supporters is Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner (FERC) John Norris.  A year and a half ago John Norris gave a nod and wink of support to Clean Line at a conference in Memphis.  The next day Norris wrote a statement supporting the need for helping the wind energy industry with more transmission projects in the name of advocating Public Policy Statements.  Since that time, Norris has been on the radar as a player in these RICL, GBE and PECL dramas. Statements like the two listed bellow were found to be distrubing.

“It is clear that going forward, we will place a great deal of emphasis on the available ratemaking incentives that reduce risk for a project."

"Projects that provide access to location-constrained resources, such as our nation’s wealth of renewable resources, that previously had no or limited access to markets"

Those statements just kind of rubbed me wrong with being so close ot Jimmy Glotfelty it sure appeared to be winks and nods to Clean Line Energy Puttineers.  

FERC’r John Norris surfaced again this week.  Platts reported FERC’s Advances Efforts to integrate Renewables into the Grid.  The end of this article is most interesting.
Commissioner John Norris, meanwhile, noted a March study put forward by the American Wind Energy Association challenging the view that the PTC and negative prices for electricity are distorting markets for nuclear units and other baseload plants.

While he said he wanted more information on how the PTC impacts nuclear facilities, Norris also said that options should be considered to keep nuclear plants operational, including long-term power purchase agreements, and that he had spoken with state regulators on the issue. He expressed concern that the grid could lose what he called a clean-burning baseload generation source if there is not action at the state level, in Congress or elsewhere.

John Norris probably really doesn’t needs more information about the problems created by wind energy’s Production Tax Credit.  Heck, a simple farmboy from Illinois can see the Production Tax Credit is creating a false economy for wind energy.  Following RICL and GBE ratepayers can see the problems as wind companies are practicing a form of predatory pricing to produce energy when it would normally not be economical.  If FERC’r John Norris needs more information, Exelon’s report about negative pricing is an excellent read.  As a FERC commissioned  and an advocate for wind energy, John Norris really doesn’t need more information.  He’ll just take what is spoon feed to him by the wind industry. 

It would appear Norris is being an arbitrator between his friends the wind industry and the nuclear industry.  The compromise Norris is leaning towards, Power Purchasing Agreements for the nuclear industry above market pricing is also interesting as such Power purchasing Agreements is a state issue and not a FERC issue.  More long-term Power Purchasing Agreements will lead to higher prices for consumers.   So, John Norris, FERC and the federal government create the problem by giving the wind industry such favorable incentives.  When the rest of the industry suffers, Norris doesn’t lean towards reducing the gifts towards the wind industry, but proposes more lucrative terms for those in the energy industry being hurt by wind energy’s sweetheart deals. 

Who is representing the ratepayers in all this?   Consumers and ratepayers have no advocates at FERC and this is a classic example of FERC seeing its role as the arbitrator between energy companies or between RTO’s having turf wars in their little fiefdoms.  As commissioners, like John Norris, look for “fair” and “equitable” solutions, like recommending nuclear baseload receive their own 20 year Power Purchasing Agreements, the ratepayers are the ones who lose in these compromises.    

The problem with giving the nuclear industry 20 year Power Purchasing Agreements is this does nothing to eliminate the problem.  The Production Tax Credit for the wind industry creates a bubble economy for wind within the energy industry.  With the wind industry having 20 year Power Purchasing Agreements plus the Production Tax Credit, government bureacrats and regulators are telling the generate more wind energy when the market price is telling the energy indutry there is an over production.  With Norris advocating additional long term pricing contracts for others in the energy industry, the Commissioner is only making the problem worse and not better.

John Norris is a classic example of the theories of free markets being forgotten as regulators become meddlers picking winners and losers when the marketplace should chose. 

Winners and losers should be determined by who can produce the energy at the most economical price and still make a satisfactory profit.   Give a sweetheart deal to the wind industry, others suffer.  Give a similar deal to nuclear baseload will only place natural gas energy producers at a further disadvantage.  Then again maybe FERC’r John Norris is just punting here and saying “FERC only creates the problems.  The solution is a problem for state regulators to fix.”  Regardless, this is poor regulating by Norris.

It will also be interesting if John Norris chooses to keep his head stuck in the sand with the Missouri Landowner Alliance complaint to FERC that Clean Line Energy is still being prejudicial and marketing these transmission projects to wind energy companies in spite of FERC stating Rick Island Clean Line LLC (RICL) and Plains & Eastern Clean Line (PECL) cannot discriminate.

This brings us back to FERC'r John Norris's support for RICL, GBE, and PECL.  When these transmission projects for massive wind farms finally self-destruct as the poop hits the fan, how much of the ca-ca will land on wind advocacy regulators like Norris?  Regulators who are advocates for the industry are not friends of ratepayers and the ratepayers clearly need at least one advocate at FERC.  Maybe the commissioner to replace John Norris when his term is up will have experience advocating for consumers.  When the ca-ca does hit the fan and Clean Line implodes, some of that stuff is going to those bureaucrats supporting CLEP's plans.  This is bigger than one powerline.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Building Champions to Build Projects

Hey, The American Wind Energy Assocciation annual meeting is coming up in May!

Guess who is Doing a session about "siting".
Nope, not Michael Skelly,  Jimmy Glotfelty, or even RICL's "Director of Development" Hans Detweiler.  RICL's "manager" Amy Kurt is doing a session.  Go figure.  Here's a discription from the AWEA wibsite.  DO a search for "CLEAN LINE" and you will see this session .

Project Development Track
3B – Shape or Be Shaped: Rebuilding the Foundational Support for Wind Energy
Building Champions to Build Projects
clock2:45 PM - 4:15 PM
clockRoom:         Mandalay Bay F
Manager, Clean Line Energy Partners
Industry sector(s): Siting
As wind energy development continues to grow, the industry faces increasing challenges. It’s easy to get wrapped up in reacting to criticism or responding to detractors. But is it worth it? This presentation will provide an alternative solution, focusing on identifying supporters, developing them into champions, and working with them to build our projects.
Learning Objectives:
  • Change the way you think about community relations in project development.
  • Identify and build a network of supporters for your projects.
  • Activate your supporters to help develop your project. 


Wow.  That's interesting.  Clean Line Energy Partners spokesman to the AWEA is telling the industry an interesting strategy.  It sounds like Clean Line Energy is telling the industry;

"Look, we know wind energy is about as popular as... well transmission for wind energy.  Here's what you do.  Ignore the public’s concerns.  Don't respond to them and for heaven's sake, don't acknowledge their concerns no matter how legitimate they may be."

Is it wise for the wind industry to listen to the advice from a speculation project company who has three of their four main projects in a terminal flush down the spec project toliet?  The Rock Island Clean Line is about to get rejected by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The Grain Belt Express will likely be rejected by the Missouri Public Service Commission, and the TVA is moving towards new generation from natural gas.  High priced wind energy form Oklahoma is no longer in the TVA’s long term planning.  

Is it now wise for the AWEA to listen to the advice of Clean Line Energy Partners?  How many ratepayer opposition organizations are there to this company's proposed projects?  Here’s a list of some social media sources.

Let's take a moment to speculate on Clean Line Energy's motivation for holding this session at the AWEA convention.  Maybe Clean Line Energy, under Amy Kurt's advisement, has learned how to curtail and mitigate the damages done by concerned ratepayers who question the legitimacy of this company's projects.  

Maybe Clean Line Energy is making inroads by not acknowledging and ignoring the concerns of residents who believe it's simply wrong to give eminent domain power to a privately owned speculation project.   

Maybe Clean Line Energy has gleaned some prophetic wisdom by their extensive lobbying campaigns to politicians and wishes to share their knowledge and experiences with the wind energy industry.

Maybe it's wise for those in attendance at the AWEA convention to question the wisdom of taking advice from such a company.  If Clean Line Energy or any company in this industry has learned how to handle a disgruntle public, wouldn't that company keep their mouths shut and keep their secrets to themselves?

Yes, Clean Line Energy Partners LLC is an "acclaimed" award winner for their use of social media.  That award is on their resume, in spite of shutting down the companies five Facebook pages shortly after receiving the award.   Nevertheless, it's easy to guess the wind energy industry will be snickering as Amy Kurt gives the presentation.  Clean Line's been colossal failure at preventing ratepayers from raising their voices and concerns.  Clean Line Energy has clearly lost the battle with social media.

Maybe Clean Line has learned how to handle ratepayer opposition.  Then again, maybe this session at the AWEA convention is Clean Line's attempt to stop the bleeding with their main supporters in the wind energy industry.  Clean Line is facing so much opposition from Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa, the opposition is surely bleed over to the wind energy companies.

It is possible Amy Kurt is attempting to tell the wind energy companies "Hey we're in this with you.  We're facing the same public opposition you all are facing." when Clean Line is  really attempting to convince wind companies they are not the root cause of wind energy opposition by consumers.  Clean Line has exposed the inefficiencies and failures of the Production Tax Credit and Renewable Portfolio Standards, plus the wind industries extensive lobbying efforts.  While these are all needed for the wind industry's success and also Clean Line Energy's success, this has created a bit of bad PR for the wind energy in Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas.  

It is possible this session at the AWEA convention is Clean Line's attempt to mitigate the damage to the company's image within the industry and sway the image of the company within the industry.  Clean Line Energy still has not had one wind energy company sign up and commit to building a wind farm if RICL, GBE or P&ECL is built.   Maybe wind energy companies do not want to be associated with the transmission projects proposed by Clean Line Energy.  Rather than watch and listen to Amy Kurt's Clean Line presentation, it might be more interesting to watch the reaction of the audience.  

Snickers, raised eye brows, and a laughs out loud might be the response to this presentation.  

Then again, the description of this presentation by Amy Kurt is reminiscent the public relations propaganda used by the tobacco industry to deny the health concerns of cigarettes.     Perhaps wind energy companies should be asking a different question;