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Wind transmission foes ask for rehearing

Opponents of proposals to build a multistate line from Iowa east of the Mississippi River to bring wind-generated electricity to large urban markets have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reconsider its decision last month to allow the cost of such lines – estimated to be as high as $20 billion, to be spread to end users rather than borne entirely by the builders of the line.

Such transmission lines are touted by Iowa wind energy boosters as a way for the state to benefit from is huge supply of wind power, which now amounts to more than 20 percent of Iowa’s electricity generating capacity.

“Broad definitions of benefits for transmission projects driven by economics or public policy requirements that suggest that certain types or classes of projects have regional benefits per se, and therefore should be widely socialized, are not sufficient to ensure just and reasonable rates,” the The Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy said in its filing.

“The coalition is concerned that FERC’s order is inconsistent with its stated objectives in several areas and therefore fails to protect consumers,” said Sue Sheridan, the coalition’s president and chief counsel.

The coalition is made up of utilities and state regulators in eastern states who have developed interests in offshore Atlantic Ocean wind projects.

MidAmerican Energy of Des Moines and ITC Holdings of Michigan, which owns the Alliant Energy transmission system in Iowa, have proposed interstate lines to carry wind-generated electricity from Iowa and other Upper Midwest States. Houston-based Clean Line Energy has proposed construction of a new wind farm in northwest Iowa that would carry electricity primarily for the Chicago market.

Any transmission project is still years away, needing approval from the Midwest Independent System Operators (MISO), which operates the transmission grid from Ohio through Iowa north into Canada, and also input by state regulators.