Engineers filed testimony Friday on behalf of Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save Our Unique Lands (SOUL) showing why the proposed Badger Coulee regional high-voltage transmission line is not needed.
The testimony demonstrated how energy policy alternatives save ratepayers money and how the data being used and policies being forwarded by applicant utilities would overstate project need.
CETF and SOUL retained the services of engineers Peter Lanzalotta and Bill Powers to represent ratepayers in their legal intervention against the Badger Coulee application, which is currently before the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC). Lanzalotta is an expert in planning and operation of electric utility systems, with more than 30 years experience as both an employee of and consultant to a privately- and publicly-owned electric utilities, and a degree in Electric Power Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration. In his testimony, Lanzalotta said, “…there is little current reliability need for Badger-Coulee that cannot be addressed by reinforcements to lower voltage transmission facilities, and this minimal need is greatly reduced by the current and projected lack of load growth.”
Lanzalotta challenged the lack of analysis at lower or no load growth conditions, saying, “It is not possible to say what levels of benefits, if any, would be likely under zero or negative load growth scenarios. It is possible to say that the reliability benefits from Badger-Coulee, compared to a low voltage alternative, would be minimized under no growth or negative growth conditions… Under these conditions, I do not believe that approval of the Badger-Coulee project is warranted.”
Powers, an energy and environmental engineer with more than 30 years experience in power plant operations and environmental engineering, provided testimony and analysis that supported Lanzalotta’s conclusions and pointed to more cost-effective energy policies. According to Powers’ analysis, load management is the most cost-effective resource to offset peak demand with potential to expand the use of this tool in Wisconsin. Load management, such as turning an air conditioning off for 15 minutes, can be used by utilities to reduce peak demand spikes and avoid infrastructure that would otherwise be needed to serve the very limited times this occurs.
Noting that applicants ATC and Xcel convey high growth in the La Crosse area, Powers provided focus and perspective, testifying, “Actual peak load growth in the La Crosse/Winona area is modest, less than 0.5 percent per year, if no available load management is deployed by DPCW (Dairyland Power Cooperative) or NSPW (Xcel). If available (load management) had been deployed to offset peak demand, the actual demand trend would be slightly negative. (However) Neither DPCW nor NSPW deployed any (load management) to offset their respective 2013 peak loads.”
Powers testified that the applicants overstate the economic benefits of (centralized) wind power and the role of transmission constraints in restricting wind development, and ignore the economic competitiveness of solar power with wind power and the better match of solar output with summer peak demand.
“Regional transmission’s protection of centralized utilities, when combined with policies that suppress alternatives, unfairly limits free market choice,” said Debra Severson of CETF. “Wisconsin energy decisions should benefit the public, not special interests, and now we’ve got energy and transmission engineers backing us up.”
When asked about the additional transmission being planned in Wisconsin and if the Badger Coulee decision could be a particularly pivotal energy decision for the state, Lanzalotta said, “I think it is reasonable to infer that the decision will be unusually influential. Given the slow and/or negative growth conditions, and the rising interest in distributed solar and accelerated energy efficiency, should the ratepayers and the PSC not be ready to move forward with full confidence, a wise investor would probably pause at least a few years to see which trends truly develop.”
Wisconsin has the legal right to assess need and deny approval if in-state ratepayer benefits are not proportionate to Wisconsin ratepayers’ costs or if other solutions better serve state ratepayers. Wisconsin statutes give priority to energy conservation, efficiency and renewable generation such that if the PSC finds any or a combination of these options constitute a cost effective and technically feasible alternative, the PSC must reject all of or a portion of the project. CETF and SOUL, with the support of the engineers, are committed to ensuring the spirit of state energy policy is followed.
Public hearings to comment on the Badger Coulee Environmental Impact Statement are scheduled for Dec. 8-15. Technical hearings will be held… and provide the public another chance to make legal comments regarding the application.