An anti–wind incentive group formed by Oklahoma oil and gas executives has intervened in Public Service Co. of Oklahoma’s preapproval case for its $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project.
Attorneys for the Windfall Coalition notified the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Friday about the group’s interest in the proceeding. The case is still in its early stages and parties haven’t yet staked out formal positions.
PSO’s Wind Catcher involves 800 turbines in the Oklahoma Panhandle and a dedicated transmission line to take the electricity to 1.1 million customers served by PSO and a sister utility, Southwestern Electric Power Co.
PSO wants Oklahoma regulators to waive competitive bidding rules and allow preapproval to recover costs from customers once the project comes online by late 2020. PSO’s share of the project costs is $1.36 billion.
Windfall’s executive director, Cliff Branan, did not return voicemails and emails seeking comment Tuesday.
PSO’s Wind Catcher case also has attracted interest from other groups: Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers; Plains and Eastern Clean Line LLC; Walmart; natural gas power plant operator Oneta Power LLC; and the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.
“We look forward to working with all parties, particularly those who, like PSO, are interested in advancing projects that deliver benefits to customers,” PSO spokesman Stan Whiteford said Tuesday in an email. “We’ll demonstrate how the $4.5 billion investment in Wind Catcher will benefit both PSO customers and Oklahoma through the creation of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions in additional tax dollars and billions more in customer savings. And all without any state incentives.”
In testimony filed in the case, PSO estimates the Wind Catcher project would add another $78 million to customer rates in 2021. But the utility said customers would see lower bills because of fuel savings and federal tax credits.
PSO is looking for a quick decision from Oklahoma regulators in order to preserve the full value of federal tax incentives for wind generation. Developer Invenergy started construction on the wind farm last year, but it must meet certain deadlines or risk smaller incentives under a planned phase down of the federal credit. The project also needs approval from state regulators in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The utility also has a separate, ongoing rate case at the Corporation Commission where it requested an increase of $156 million. If approved, that rate case would increase the typical residential customer bill by $14 per month.
The Windfall Coalition was formed last year by several energy executives, including Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources Inc.; Jeff McDougall, president and owner of JMA Energy Co.; and Pete Delaney, former OGE Energy Corp. chairman and CEO.
The coalition ran a series of ads in the spring against wind incentives featuring former Gov. Frank Keating and former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer.
The Legislature ended the state’s zero-emissions tax credit for wind energy July 1, three years earlier than its previous sunset date.
In the current special session, some lawmakers want to end a manufacturing sales tax exemption for wind developers. Senate GOP leaders estimate ending that exemption could bring in almost $11 million in additional revenue for the state in the current fiscal year.
The state’s manufacturing sales tax exemption totals about $2 billion per year, according to estimates from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It’s available to a wide range of manufacturing operations, including natural gas power plants and oil refineries. Oilfield equipment does not qualify for the exemption.
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