September 28, 2010
Minnesota, Wisconsin

Customer groups oppose increase

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel, 27 September 2010

Clogged transmission lines will prevent green power generated by Wisconsin Power & Light Co.’s new Minnesota wind farm from reaching Wisconsin, so the Madison utility’s ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay higher prices linked to the nearly $500 million project.

That’s the argument presented to state energy regulators Monday by two customer groups that want to block a price increase from taking effect for WP&L customers on Jan. 1.

The customer groups say the Madison utility failed to disclose information about potential transmission problems that could prevent the Bent Tree Wind Farm project from generating as much power as the utility envisioned.

“Ratepayers should pay for only the goods they get, not the sales pitch they were given,” the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG) and Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB) said in a filing with the PSC on Monday.

But Wisconsin Power & Light said it has been transparent in providing information to regulators about the project and the status of securing enhanced transmission capacity to move the power from the wind farm in southern Minnesota to Wisconsin.

“CUB and WIEG’s allegations are unfounded and unsupported,” the utility said.

The utility said it expects transmission constraints to be resolved within a few years that would enable the project’s full output, 200 megawatts, to be able to flow onto the power grid.

At issue is WP&L’s proposal to raise rates by $18.9 million, or 1.9%, in January. The protests about the Bent Tree wind farm were raised by the same groups that filed suit last year seeking to overturn the state’s approval for the project.

A Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled last week that the Public Service Commission didn’t need to use a more exhaustive review process for Bent Tree. The wind farm is under construction, with turbines now being delivered to the site and erected, said utility spokesman Steve Schultz. The project is expected to open in phases beginning in November, with the entire project slated to be done by March, he added.

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