Community Leader Support For
LOCAL ENERGY FUTURES
& Non-Transmission Alternatives
at Heart of Cardinal Hickory Creek Defeat
Last week, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) started the review of the controversial Cardinal Hickory Creek proposal (CHC)1. For the first time in Wisconsin, decision makers at the state agency will be choosing among four options. One option is a customer-friendly alternative whose selection would also prevent an eighth expansion line from disfiguring our state, this time in the Driftless area.
In numerous reports2, the PSC has warned customers that our electric bills have soared due to a “continuous utility construction cycle” and accumulating long term, high interest debt. For CHC, transmission builders are hiding large expansion costs using piecemeal economics called, “regional cost sharing.” Builders court Wisconsin customers by telling them that 85% of the cost of CHC would be paid by unknowing electric customers in other states, but fail to point out that costs of lines built in other states are shoved onto Wisconsin ratepayers. In Iowa, where utilities reveal some of these expansion costs on electric bills, they amount to 20% of electricity charges3. Since 2005, Wisconsin’s costs under this multi-state shell game have averaged more than $400 million per year 4- seven times more than the cost of efficiency and local power rebates that actually do lower bills and slash CO2 emissions.
Utility commissions in nine states have recognized the advantages of these lower cost incentives and selected Non-Tranmission Alternatives (NTA’s) over the expansion transmission option5. They have rewarded customers for pursuing conservation, efficiency and adding renewables to homes, businesses, farms and communities. They are striving to right-size their states’ electricity needs to avoid power plant and power line expansions that transmission builders’ assume are mandatory.
Three groups representing public interests in the CHC review have hired nationally acclaimed specialists to craft state-of-the-art NTA options for the PSC commissioners to consider. Compared to the high voltage transmission option, the alternatives provide greater savings and CO2 emission reduction by enabling more homes, farms, businesses and local economies to accelerate conservation, replace inefficient appliances and equipment and develop on-site and community solar. They‘ll include battery storage and load management to prolong the lifespan of Wisconsin’s electrical system which is already rated as one of the most reliable in the US.
Those expecting the Wisconsin Commissioners’ decision to address climate change will appreciate that PSC review process discerns casual comments heard on TV or read in publicity from statements in the case with evidence. One will not find phrases like, “cheap wind power” or innuendo that CHC would “lower electric bills” in the official application documents.
In SOUL of Wisconsin’s reading of the high voltage transmission option in the application, transmission builders offer no guarantees of CO2 reductions or savings. This absence sounds an alarm as our state and federal laws provide no way to independently test actual transmission line performance after approval. As with CHC, all seven, prior transmission expansion lines in Wisconsin touted potential energy savings and potential CO2 reductions6. If past outcomes were as promised, the current CHC application would most certainly include them.
In contrast, the US Department of Energy provides clear evidence that Non-Transmission Alternatives roundly out-perform utility expansion spending7. From 2005 to 2016, 50% of the CO2 emission reductions associated with electricity in the US came from Non-Tranmission Alternatives that lowered overall demand for electricity. The many billions spent developing remote renewables realized only half this reduction (24%), on par with that from coal plant to natural gas power plant conversion (26%).
Further, the cost to ratepayers for NTA’s is several times less while guaranteeing maximized CO2 emission reductions and savings flowing to electric customers instead of unproductive, community-debilitating intrusion and long term debt.
We can’t fix a broken machine by making it bigger.
The record for public participation in any utility case in Wisconsin is just around 1500 comments. Regional cost-sharing imbues every person in Wisconsin and across the Midwest the right to encourage the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to achieve a new, higher standard of review.
Absolutely, the agency's Environmental/Economic Impact Statement must throughly assess the many, negative impacts that a high profile, 100-120 mile long high voltage transmission line would impose on the gift we call, The Driftless. But that is half' the task, hard-working, public colleagues.. The CHC review is the moment to equally recognize, assess and recommend what is good, generous and forward in our energy vision. The CHC proposal brings to a fork in the road. We CAN empower our selves, homes, businesses, farms, communities, neighborhoods, state and region to do a lot more than what transmission builders have foreseen. For a lot less.
If the Driftless is your home, fill up your car and attend the remaining PSC Scoping Meeting (below). If not, begin by posting your first comment using the PSC’s online tool: http://bit.ly/ePORTAL . Over the days of giving ahead, take breaks to talk about about the energy you want-- with neighbors, friends, family and community members. With that additional care and PSC input, both the old record and the old ways will fall. Scoping input will be accepted until January 4, 2019, but PSC staff has advised that earlier input is easier to accommodate.
- Wednesday, Nov. 14, Grant Co. Fairgrounds, UWEX Youth & Ag. Center Auditorium, 916 E. Elm St., Lancaster, WI - Identical sessions at 2:00 and 6:00 pm.
SEE ONLINE SCOPING INPUT SUGGESTIONS - LEFT SIDEBAR.
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