The Missouri Public Service Commission staff said there is no clear need for the Grain Belt Express – a controversial wind energy project seeking permits from the state to build.
The staff’s findings could put a damper on Grain Belt’s ability to secure a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to construct and operate a wind energy transmission line through northern Missouri. Although the PSC staff does not wield the power to make a decision on the case, it’s findings – reported in rebuttal testimony on Jan. 24 – represent a significant hurdle the power project must still clear. The five-person Public Service Commission will ultimately make a decision on the project.
The staff evaluated the project based on five criteria. The project must meet all five criteria to receive approval. The criteria are:
1. Whether there is a need for the project
2. Whether the applicant is qualified to own, operate, control and manage
3. Whether the applicant has the financial ability
4. Whether the proposal is economically feasible
5. Whether the project promotes the public interest
The staff determined the project meets criteria 2 and 3, but much focus has been on the first and fifth criteria.
In rebuttal testimony, PSC staff expect Daniel Beck “explains that no Missouri investor-owned electric utility ‘needs’ to purchase energy directly from a renewable source to meet its 2021 RES compliance requirements, and only one, Ameren Missouri, does not already have sufficient renewable sourced energy to meet the 2021 RES standard.”
The “need” factor of the project was a key reason why the PSC denied necessary permits in July 2015.
The staff also notes that the project does not have consent of the counties in the path to use and cross public roads. They argue those consents are mandatory for the project to proceed. County Commissions in the proposed path, including Ralls County, have vehemently opposed granting consent for the project. Ralls County Presiding Commissioner Wiley Hibbard provided passionate rebuttal testimony that excoriated the project, saying the project was a “land grab by a few to make money” and that it had already caused families tension, turmoil and loss of money.
Evidentiary hearings in the case are scheduled for March.
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