Power-supply talks between Clean Line Energy (CLE) and the Hannibal Board of Public Works are being curtailed, at least for the time being.
During last week’s BPW Board meeting Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, announced that discussions were being “tabled” with CLE, which is proposing a high voltage DC transmission line carrying wind energy from western Kansas into Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. In an effort to gain customers in the Show-Me State, CLE has been trying to woo the city of Hannibal’s support for the project with promises of electricity for as little as 2 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh). Residential customers of the BPW are paying just under 10 cents per kwh.
While the BPW Board has heard at least one proposal from CLE, rather than move to finalize a deal the BPW’s top administrator recommended “we table our discussions with Clean Line Energy at this time and move forward with some caution as we observe developments between Clean Line Energy, some of our fellow municipal utilities around the state, and the MoPSC (Missouri Public Service Commission),” wrote Stevenson in a memo presented the BPW Board at its Feb. 16 meeting.
“We’re studying the situation,” said Stevenson during the BPW Board meeting. “Just because they are in a hurry doesn’t mean we need to be.”
Randy Park, BPW Board president, added that the BPW is performing its “due diligence” regarding opposition and support for the project.
“We’ll listen to information from both sides,” said Park.
Ralls County Presiding Commissioner Wiley Hibbard, noting that a vast majority of his constituents strongly oppose the project whose footprint would run through the county, applauded the BPW Board for putting on the brakes regarding a potential contract with the company.
“We’ve been working against this for two years,” said Hibbard during the Feb. 17 meeting of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council (NEMOEDC). “We thought this (Grain Belt Express Clean Line project) had been put to bed and now it’s reared its head again. People are frustrated.”
While the BPW may be closing the door on negotiations with CLE in the immediate future, it’s important to note that door is not being locked.
“We will continue to study and monitor those developments with a view to re-open our discussions if the project develops into a more viable project, which I think will happen,” wrote Stevenson in his memo.
Recognizing there is a lot of confusion regarding the proposed wind-energy project, Stevenson said the BPW will strive to keep its customers up to speed.
“We recognize that at this time the (BPW) Board, the City Council and our customers are trying to deal with a mix of facts, misinformation, and pure myth surrounding this project,” he wrote in his memo. “I think it wise to spend some time sorting out truth from fiction and communicating that to our customers in an understandable way over the next few months. Staff will continue to study, discuss, report facts and expose fiction as we are able.”
The BPW has explored the option of either solely buying power, or a share in the power substation that would be built in Ralls County. Stevenson said the guaranteed return on such an infrastructure investment would be 10 percent a year. He noted such an investment would not be “speculative” since the substation, once completed, would be a Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator asset.
If a deal is ever struck between CLE and the BPW Board, CLE will be seeking from Hannibal a letter of participation that the company would include in its next application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Missouri Public Service Commission. The PSC denied CLE such a certificate in July 2015.
CLE’s efforts to cultivate customers are not focused solely on Hannibal. Stevenson told the NEMOEDC that CLE has approached some of the other approximately 50 Missouri cities that are a part of MISO.
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