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Energy groups request ‘timely decision’ in Grain Belt case

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Members of a municipal joint action energy agency are calling on the Missouri Public Service Commission to make a decision in regard to the Grain Belt Express Clean Line wind energy project.

Following an agenda meeting on May 24, in which the PSC gave an update on the case status for the project’s application, the 68 members of the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) are asking the PSC to not further delay a decision in the case.

The MJMEUC on May 31 filed a response with the PSC regarding that update, requesting a decision to not be substantially delayed, saying that it could “operate as a de facto denial” of Grain Belt’s application and “in turn, materially prejudice MJMEUC’s members.”

The document goes say the the transmission line project is needed because Kansas’ wind energy would save MJMEUC members hundreds of millions of dollars over the more than 20-year-life of the MJMEUC’s Transmission Services Agreement with Grain Belt. Missouri Landowner Alliance expert Joseph Jaskulski calculates the deal to save at least $3 million annually under the TSA, which would add up to at least $60 million in savings over two decades.

The MLA also says that the Grain Belt project may amount to “savings of several dollars per month on MJMEUC’s retail electric bills.”

The PSC commission had said in the agenda meeting that the reason no decision had been made at this time is that a case pending before the Supreme Court could potentially have an effect on the case, saying that they were monitoring that case.

That case is the Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Power Line v. PSC decision that was recently rendered by the Missouri Appellate Court’s Western District. But MJMEUC says that decision is not applicable to the Grain Belt case, and offers no obstacles or guidance for the PSC in the making of their decision.

As such, they are requesting a timely decision in the case.

Several other comments were filed in the case last week, with Infinity Wind Power (Infinity) and Renew Missouri echoing the sentiments of the MJMEUC.

Grain Belt also filed a response which reads in a similar manner, but also noted that a delayed decision could hurt the company’s ability to make the investments needed to put the project in place.

“Grain Belt Express must invest tens of millions of dollars in engineering, environmental permitting, and easement acquisition to continue to develop the Project,” the document reads.

They also stated that wind generators need to make capital commitments this year to begin construction on their wind farms in order to qualify for the current value of the federal production tax credit, which they say will decline in 2018. If delayed until 2018, they said, it will increase the cost that Missouri utilities would have to pay for the power delivered by the clean line project.

At this time, though, all eyes remain focused on the PSC’s agenda schedule, to see just when the case will appear once again.