Wisconsin Power & Light got a slap on the wrist from state regulators for not making it clear that there will be problems getting electricity out to consumers from a major wind farm the Madison utility company is building in Minnesota.
Last April, WPL requested a $35.4 million rate boost for 2011, primarily to help pay for the Bent Tree wind farm near Albert Lea, Minn., which is expected to cost more than $450 million. The rate request was later reduced to $16 million in an agreement between the utility and regulators.
On Thursday, the state Public Service Commission, in a preliminary decision, agreed to an increase of about $12 million, then penalized WPL $3 million, reducing the amount the utility could charge ratepayers to $9 million.
“The PSC said the utility was not keeping the commission adequately informed of developments on transmission constraints,” said Bob Norcross, administrator of the PSC’s gas and electric division. The problem involves over-burdened high-voltage lines to carry electricity from the wind farm to the power grid, Norcross said. The PSC voted 2-1 for the penalty, with commissioner Mark Meyer opposed.
At the same time, the PSC ordered WPL to stop collecting an interim surcharge authorized in May on the expectation that fuel prices would keep rising. Instead, they are lower than expected, so the utility will also have to refund some of the money it has collected, the PSC said.
The net result of Thursday’s actions by regulators will be zero impact on consumers’ bills, Norcross said.
WPL is a subsidiary of Madison-based Alliant Energy. It provides utility service to customers in southern and central Wisconsin.
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