No need for another unaccountable power line
Re-printed from Dubuque Telegraph Herald, July 22, 2018
On line version with citations: http://bit.ly/SOUL-TH
Since 2007, in combination with Midwest-ITC, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Xcel Energy other utilities, American Transmission Company (ATC) has added 7, costly, high-capacity transmission lines across Wisconsin. In every case, ATC promised electric customers energy savings and lowered CO2 emissions. This has not happened. Instead, electric rates have climbed at 3.5% per year, fixed meter fees have soared 9% per year5 and CO2 emission reductions are essentially flat.
Understandably, electric customers and businesses are regarding the Cardinal Hickory Creek proposal with broad consternation and intensified inquiry. How does this expansion without customer accountability happen?
ATC and others that build expansion transmission lines are special entities with special rights. They are guaranteed more than 10% annual profit, are authorized to spread costs among 42 million unaware electric customers, have no economic or environmental performance tests to meet after approval, have laws freeing them from traditional financial liabilities, and can condemn private land. It is not surprising these companies build steadily until ratepayers, lawmakers and state utility commissions step in.
Since 2009, utility commissions in sixteen other states have paused or denied ten expansion transmission lines emphasizing that with electricity use flat, No Wire Alternatives based on accelerated energy efficiency, load management and local renewable sources are more economic and environmentally accountable. If Resolutions formally adopted by more than 120 Wisconsin municipal governments and seven counties requesting this direction are fair measure, Iowa and Wisconsin will soon join this trend.
Transmission builders also use selective, misleading wording in their publicity. ATC dismisses 10 years of flat energy use from planning consideration as “one dimensional,” offering instead, “build it and use will come” logic. The unfounded growth in electricity use they assume (0.4% to 0.9%, compounded annually), is used to justify $50 to $150 billion in mostly natural gas power plants without mention of massive impacts on our bills. ATC publicizes $23.5 to $350 million in non-guaranteed, net savings failing to mention the term of 40 years. This computes to a potential, 2-24 cent decrease in a monthly bill that would be $50 higher after 40 years. ATC “economics” reason that more investment toward energy efficiency is only appropriate after billions are spent on regional power plants. This wastes the equivalent of eight years of electricity use compared to pursuing efficiency first and making many power plants
We are at a fork in the road.
With use flat, we can either blindly commit to more utility expansion and debilitating debt or follow states who have shifted emphasis to increased efficiencies and self-sufficiency over coming decades. This involves rightsizing our energy system through energy improvements in homes communities and local substations. For much less cost, households can cut use 30% guaranteeing savings and CO2 reductions at the fastest possible rate.
Importantly, avoiding new debt allows us to steadily pay down the past utility debt currently forcing our utilities to undervalue local solar and lower efficiency rebates. The portion of a typical monthly electric bill going to debt on previously approved power plants and transmission lines is about $50-$60. Electricity is about $30 .
ATC’s application does not cite impacts on our bills or the primal influence of utility debt. It is time to place problem-solving at the heart of this important discussion.
By law, condemnation of private land demands proof that a new transmission line is in the best interests of the public. Iowa and Wisconsin utility commission staff are currently judging if the CHC application contains sufficient information to warrant a full review. Take a moment to explain to your state lawmakers that you expect responsive, customer and land resource accountability from the public utility commission their laws oversee.
Editorial with active citation links: http://bit.ly/SOUL-TH
Editorial in Dubuque Telegraph Herald: http://bit.ly/TelegraphHerald-Opinions-20180722
Cross Plain’s Energy Planning Goals and the Cardinal Hickory Creek Transmission Line Proposal
Join town citizens for a brief presentation about Understanding and Acting On Non-Transmission Alternatives
Monday, August 13, 7:30pm
Town Hall / Pine Bluff Community Center
3734 County Rd P, Cross Plains,WI
Curious about what is happening with the Cardinal Hickory Creek (CHC) expansion transmission line proposal and municipal government responses to it? Have you thought how a project of this size would affect your community’s land values, housing and business development, energy bills and community environmental goals?
A person who has been studying these issues and the CHC transmission proposal in detail, will be at the next meeting of the Cross Plains Town board, Monday, August 13th at 7:30pm, to answer questions like these and describe a unique, energy planning opportunity handed to the community, surprisingly, by the transmission builders themselves.
In 2017, the Town of Cross Plains joined 32 other communities across Central and Southwest Wisconsin and adopted a resolution asking the prospective transmission builders of Cardinal Hickory Creek to conduct additional cost-benefit analysis. To the surprise of many, in 2018, the towns’ requests came through. Scheduled visitor Rob Danielson of the Town of Stark Energy Planning Committee, says, “For the first time in 20 years, pressured transmission builders have provided communities estimates of the local benefits we would receive if the same millions needed to pay for Cardinal Hickory Creek was spent instead, on local efficiency, load management and community solar. Now is the time for Communities to respond.”
In their application submitted to the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin last April, the transmission companies singled out Cross Plains and Mount Horeb as appropriate locations to model alternatives to the huge transmission line,”because the location[s] could reduce the thermal loading of the West Middleton – Timberlane Tap – Stagecoach 69 kV line.” (Refer pdf p. 28)
The two transmission lines of interest connect at the substation at the intersection of County P and Stage Coach Road. Transmission builders say 3 miles of the line running eastward (West Middleton- Stage Coach #6927) may be in need of rebuilding around 2040 at a cost of $2.2-2.8 million and that 7.9 miles of the line running southward (Wally Road-Stagecoach Y-128) may be in need of rebuilding around 2029 at a cost of $9.9 million. By developing local solar and other measures in the near future for the same or less cost, the community would realize significant energy and environmental savings and some of these costly upgrade costs would be significantly advanced in time and the economic performance of the existing line improved.
This is a community-sized look at the forward looking energy future that many states are choosing instead of utility expansion, especially as energy use is flat. Local, Non-Transmission Alternatives of this nature have been selected over high voltage transmission lines in 17 state PSC’s in recent years.
Cross Plains is in position to study potential energy and environmental savings that would come from Non-Transmission Alternatives like community solar to help show the PSC that now may be the time to join the other economically prudent states.
For 10 years, Wisconsin’s electricity use has been flat and declining as has use of the electricity market. Because of this, in order to estimate economic benefits from CHC, transmission builders were forced to assume our electricity use will suddenly increase and continue to increase for decades. Under these wasteful conditions, builders estimate that from 2 to 24 cents per month might be subtracted from our electric bills. But builders fail to mention in their brochures that their planning also assumes our bills will increase in the neighborhood of $50-80 per month over 40 years to pay for this line, along with others like it and many new natural gas power plant additions.
“With economic “savings” like these, who needs major cost increases?” observes Danielson.
If built, naturalists are concerned that Cardinal Hickory Creek would also compromise many unique habitats as it cuts through the Driftless area affecting tourism, property values, local economies as it raises electric rates. The builders application makes no guarantees of CO2 emission reductions or that the high capacity expansion line would address reliability issues if energy use should not increase.
If the PSC deems the transmission builders’ application complete, there are three opportunities for the public to have input. However, only testimony given at the final public hearing will be recorded into the proceeding and, in the past, its has not been sufficiently considered by Commissioners. It is necessary for local governments and community leaders with louder voices to speak up. Another public meeting will be held in Cross Plains on August 30 to talk about ways leaders and volunteers can help Cross Plains chart its best energy path forward and possibly play a role in stopping Cardinal Hickory Creek.
For more info about both meetings, contact Chris Klopp at 608-438-0883 or via email
Terese’s Energy Efficiency & Conservation Tips For Sharing
Terese Agnew - La Farge, WI
I love having solar panels, because when the sun is shining I can see how much electricity we produce in real time. When the sun is giving us 5 to 6 KiloWatts (kW), I like to do activities that require more electricity, like using power tools, doing laundry, vacuuming and air conditioning when it’s hot. Our solar panels produce the most energy on clear, sunny days, even in the middle of the winter. It can run our house, even on cloudy and snowy days if we shift energy intensive tasks to sunny days. To avoid adding (expensive) demand on the electric grid during hot summer days, we aim to do intensive tasks before 3 pm and then supply solar power to the grid. On hot summer days you, too, can benefit the energy balance, by using less energy after 2-3pm whether you have solar or not.
But not everyone is able to “go solar.” Did you know that reducing your energy use with the following techniques is equivalent to going solar? It’s true! Our household reduced our use of grid power even more AFTER we went solar by paying attention to and stopping our mindless waste.
No and Low Cost Here are just some of the fun things anyone can do with very little money to reduce their CO2 footprint from electricity use significantly and save money.
- Change to LED light bulbs. Incandescent bulbs use 10 times more energy and add heat to your house in the summer. LED bulbs are only $1, last about 17 years and are brighter! Replace 60 watt incandescent bulbs with 40 watt LED’s that only use 5 watts each. Choose 2700K “color temperature” to maintain the pretty color of incandescent bulbs. They work in outside fixtures and in most appliances. If a LED bulb hums or make noise, it is faulty, exchange it!
- Turn lights and fans off when not in the room* Myth: it does not take more electricity to turn modern lights on and off. Consider turning off all appliances you do not use steadily like cable TV boxes, computers, speakers, radios and water pumps. We save $3 per month just turning off our cable box which we only use a few hours per day. We turn off or unplug chargers for cell phones, toothbrushes and other gadgets when they are finished charging.
- For huge, instant savings, set and keep the temperature knob on your hot water heater to 110 degrees. Its set correctly when the faucet handle is turned all the way to the hottest position and it feels just perfect. This alone can save as much as adding 2-3 solar panels to your house!
- Purchase low-flow shower heads rated at 1.2 to 1.5 GPM (Gallons Per Minute) compared to older 4+ GPM units. You will barely notice the minute difference in pressure. When you buy a new water heater*, consider a natural gas or propane, “on-demand” heater for more awesome savings and lower CO2 emissions than electric hot water hear.
- Don’t stand in front of an open fridge looking for something to eat. Think about what you want, open the door, get it and close it. The fridge is the biggest energy guzzler that is on all the time. (When I was in a wheel chair I learned to appreciate how much cold falls out of an opened fridge.)
- When we heated all of our hot water on a wood stove, we never poured it down a drain and wasted it after one use. Save the washing and rinsing power of hot water by stoppering the sink drain for tasks like soaking a bowl of crusty cereal. A final rinse will rid your dishes of any germs..
- If your house has not had an energy audit to help find air leaks and other places to make cost effective improvements, look into Focus on Energy rebates for this and get one! A good company will provide a full range of options from cheap to more costly.
Staying Warm in Winter
Another layer of clothing like a sweater or vest allows you to drop the air temperature in your house in the winter another 2-4 degrees producing very significant savings over the course of winter. We "winter" at 64F and know of households that like even lower temperatures! Polar fleece is a soft, comfortable fabric to use for extra layer clothing. Nothing is warmer than polar fleece and wool. They dry in a flash, and are very light weight. Skinny under layers are widely available too.
For that cozy feeling climbing into bed when is freezing outside, make a rice warmer to pre-warm your bed. Its infra heat will make your bones feel warm -especially with an extra grandma quilt on top. If you still crave heat, well a dance party can heat up your house several degrees and make everyone sweat with a smile.
If your house is already well-insulated or you can’t afford an insulation upgrade now, sew quilted roman blinds that keep the house cool in summer and warmer in winter. Easy DIY how-to on net.
Staying Cool in Summer
Check the forecast, overnight temperature at your location. If the temp is forecast to drop under 68F, open up your windows and let the night air cool your house. Before the outside air starts to heat up (~8am), shut everything down and close curtains and shades-- especially on the South and West sides of your home. It’s like free AC.
When its time to roof your house, do not put a dark colored roof on! Light colors reflect heat, dark colors absorb heat. We planted deciduous trees to eventually shade our roof and south and west walls of our house. In the meantime, we put metal trellises in front of the large windows on the south side to grow something that you can cut back to the ground in winter for full winter sun. How about edible shade like french pole beans? For lovely flowers, Sweet Autumn Clematis (Paniculata) are great for enjoying the hummingbirds and song birds that perch on the trellis.
Ceiling and personal fans are excellent for summer because the moving air cools the skin directly. Myth: Fans do not cool walls and furniture, they cool skin. To increase the effect, add a thin layer of moisture with a wash cloth. Personal fans will keep one very comfortable using much, much less energy than running the AC.
Hang heavy laundry like towels on a clothes line to dry. I like to finish them in the dryer for 5 minutes to make them fluffy. Personally—I like to hang most of my clothes out too. They just smell nice, better than dryer lint sheets, for sure!
Unlike my son and my husband, I get miserable when I’m hot. Our energy efficient equalizer is my DIY spa/outdoor pool sanctuary! I have an Intex Easy Set backyard pool (8’ X 30” pool, $45) placed inside a 10’ X 10’ screened tent (about $78) to keep bugs out! After 20 minutes in the pool and I am cool as a cucumber for hours. Not one mosquito bite in 3 years.
Reducing the CO2 content in products we buy.
Like many, we are working on our shopping and consumption habits. We are eating lower on the food chain (less meat, more plants), buying local whenever we can and avoiding products with ridiculous packaging. We are even making progress on diet soda! Weaning use of silly, highly energy and material wasteful packaging is easiest when we cook our meals. We need to buy more foods in bulk. I have a picture above my desk of the plastic bottle “island” the size of France, floating in the ocean.
In a year or two we’ll hope to buy an all electric car. Importantly, we’ll charge it when the sun shines with the extra power from our solar panels. Until then, our neighbors will continue to use our solar power for their needs.
Okay, got all that down? Check out the ingenious, community-minded activities of New Power Tour in Upper Michigan.
Terese Agnew has served on the SOUL Media Committee and as a member of the Board of Directors since 2013.
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Harnessing Our Local
Meeting Our Priorities with Household and Local Solutions
Shortfalls in Transmission Review Process and Busting Utility Myths
Confronting the Harmful Land and Economic Impacts of Transmission Expansion
Trustee, Village of Montfort, WI
StopPATH WV, Shepherdstown, WV
Participation, Politics, and Public Opinion
Driftless Area Land Conservancy, Dodgeville, WI
Protecting the Natural Habitats and Local Economies of the Driftless Area from Unnecessary Transmission Expansion
Powers Engineering, San Diego, CA
Local-Based Energy Futures and the Obstacle of Transmission Expansion
The grid to nowhere
An argument against building giant transmission lines
BY MICHAEL LENEHAN
MARCH 1, 2018