High-Capacity Transmission Proposal Delayed, Select Landowners told of Potential Routes

Mirroring a slow down in proposed transmission expansion projects at the regional level, flat and declining  electricity use could be affecting at least one proposal sought by Wisconsin and Iowa-based transmission builders.  On April 25th, American Transmission  Company (ATC) and ITC Holdings released a schedule showing the date expected for application submission in 2018 or 2019 rather than later this year.  Although the project, Cardinal Hickory Creek, has been in regional planning for at least 6 years, the builders' press releases offer no explanation for the delay. Instead, they focus attention on upcoming "open houses" for landowners potentially affected by the project,  For reasons not yet known, the builders sent invitations only to property owners within 300' of  potential routes failing to notify many landowners of opportunity to make comments and ask questions. Impacts on property values and local economies extend further than 300 feet from high profile, 345 kV transmission towers,

Topics ripe for discussion at the open houses include explanation for an urban-scale 345 kV substation in a sparsely populated area; whether project planning guarantees that overall state and regional CO2 emissions would decrease over time, and whether ATC plans to provide electric customers with an easy to understand estimate of impacts on average, monthly utility bills over the amortization period of 30 years.  Requests for the later were made and denied numerous times during the review of the company's prior Badger-Coulee proposal. The controversial project was approved by Commissioners last year but their decision is  being  appealled.

As indicated in state energy assessments ,the addition of seven transmission expansion lines in WI over the last ten years (and resulting long-term debt) is a factor behind significant fixed-fee hikes that penalize customers who make efforts to roll back use. Paired with recent cutbacks in energy efficiency and solar incentives, the wisdom of adding more transmission debt as energy use levels off is likely to be questioned. Open house goers  pressed for time can hand deliver letters with questions and comments written in advance.  

The transmission builders warn open house attendees that no accountable, formal presentation will be made at any of the three locations within the 1500 square mile study area:  Plan drive time carefully as they sessions only last from 4 to 7 pm

  • Monday, May 16 - Peosta Community Center 7896 Burds Road Peosta, IA 52068 

  • Tuesday, May 17 - Pioneer Lanes 1185 US (Business) 151 Platteville, WI 53818

  • Wednesday, May 18 - Deer Valley Lodge 401 West Industrial Drive Barneveld, WI 53507

  • Thursday, May 19 - Deer Valley Lodge 401 West Industrial Drive Barneveld, WI 53507

Groups in the area with a mixture of interests and questions are informing themselves about the proposal and related factors including Driftless Defenders, Sustain Iowa County, Iowa County Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL)  and SOUL of Wisconsin. Municipal governments are in the area are reviewing and adopting PSC Information Request resolutions asking for a cost-benefit analysis of non transmission alternatives, carbon emission accountability and outlining economic and natural sensitivities that could be affected by the high voltage transmission option.

Richland Electric Cooperative Community Solar And Other Energy Bargains 

While some electric customers in Wisconsin are challenged to find profitable community solar deals, rural electric coops in Vernon and Richland Counties are offering attractive terms by following some consistent principles. The solar farms are paid for, initially, by parties who can take the federal tax credits, they are located close to utility owned substations, solar power flows to local users maximizing CO2 reduction potential and  by saving wear and tear on the substation, the utility and all customers avoid some capital costs over time. The are many older substations across WI where mutual gains like these can be realized if customers can convince the utility to take the leap.  
Like the community array in Vernon County under
Vernon Electric Coop that sold out in 2 weeks, the community solar offer under Richland Electric Coop (with help from Dairyland Coop) allows members to buy the solar power from a specified number of panels for 25 years at an upfront cost of $2 per watt.  The generated solar power with Richland is credited at full retail rate so its value will increase along with inevitable electricity cost increases.  Read more


 Households who cannot afford solar can save about $10,000 over 25 years by improving lighting and conservation practices to name just a few.  In this example, 10 incandescent light bulbs are replaced with $2.50 LED bulbs in commonly-used fixtures, a standard shower head is replaced with a $20, low-flow unit and the hot water tank temperature is lowered from 130 to 110 degrees.  The annual rates of return on these investments (tall bars in the graph) are considerably greater than solar. With $1500-$2000 to invest, some houses can change from electric hot water to “hot water on demand” units using propane or natural gas. With this improvement, a family using 700 kWh per month will avoid about $6000 in energy bills over 25 years and reduce associated carbon emissions by two-thirds or more.



What Energy Investment Produced the Most Improvements over the last Decade?

Energy efficiency and conservation were most cost-effective at right-sizing our energy needs and reducing CO2 emissions from 2004 to 2014.  From 2007 to 2012, Energy Efficiency spending in the U.S. increased an average of 300% and accounted for 75% of total CO2 reductions in 2012. In 2014, the U.S. consumed 22% less electricity because of past spending on energy efficiency improvements. While costs soared for electric customers in the midwest due to massive investments in under-performing transmission expansion, remote wind contributions increased only 4% and failed to offset fossil fuel generation which fell only 2%.   Attempts to reshape utility goals and the electricity market utilities monopolize were largely thwarted. 

Perhaps the largest lesson from the past decade is that Improvements to our homes and businesses and developing local solar not only cut bills and emissions but avoid very costly high-interest, long-term, utility debt. The cost of reducing CO2 through energy efficiency is a fraction of the cost of developing renewable power remotely when delivery costs are factored in. Even better news, energy dollars flowing into rebate pools for energy efficiency, conservation and local solar stimulate local jobs and economies while high interest debt on utility capital flows to the finance industry and Wall Street. Read more


In related article and paper:, "Wisconsin making Clean Power Plan compliance more costly for itself" the World Resources Institute (WRI) concludes that the most cost effective way for Wisconsin to achieve Clean Power Plan CO2 emission goals is through accelerating energy efficiency in conjunction with a market-based carbon pricing program. 

Winona La Duke to Join Walk for Awareness and Opposition Along Enbridge Oil Line   

The Sacred Water Sacred Land walk will begin in at the state line near Walworth and follow the pipeline route northwest to Superior bringing attention to both the existing LINE 61 and the proposed Twin LINE 66.  The walk will consist of 10-15 mile daily legs with community engagement talks along the way. La Duke, who has been opposing the Sandpiper expansion in Minnesota will join the walk for two segments and speak about the adverse effects of Canadian tar sands extraction and transport. Starting date and  stops schedule will be available at the Sacred Water Sacred Land Facebook. Contact organizers to find out ways you can help. 608-632-2216.   



SOUL of Wisconsin Meeting Thurs., May. 26, 6:30 pm 

Physical meeting at Organic Valley Headquarters in La Farge to discuss  on-going community solar and efficiency projects; Cardinal Hickory Creek and Mark Twain  transmission  expansion proposals.  Directions and locat



20th Century Utility Assumptions Failing Ratepayers in 21st Century
Article by  David Roberts explaining causes for skyrocketing cost increases and unwitting liabilities utilities are bringing upon electric customers as they refuse to embrace cost-effective solutions. Companion article  by Roberts' provides an overview of New York State's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program in which the NY PSC ordered utilities to apply $200,000 towards energy efficiency, local power and load management instead of spending $1 billion upgrading an older substation.  
LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to support ratepayer energy investment priorities is only $5!  Membership numbers are especially important when SOUL intervenes in utility cases and seeks funding for engineers and other experts.  Consider two or more memberships for your family. Donations above the $5 fee are tax deductible. Join online here or mail a check to SOUL of Wisconsin, PO Box 413, La Farge, WI 54639 

Few WI landowners and local officials appreciate the considerable abilities State Legislators possess to make constructive, written suggestions to our Public Service Commissioners. When questions surface about fairness in utility permitting process or completeness in examining all energy investment options, legislators are the persons responsible for creating policy and making sure it is followed both in spirit and in action.  After signing the petition, consider putting your pen to paper to make your observations known.  Some of the concerns SOUL is aware of are discussed in this newsletter and in this packet.  Phoning is considerably more effective than email. Zoom-in and click on this map to get the contact information for your assembly person and state senator.   .   

Visit SOUL's BOOTH at the MREA Energy Fair June 17-19  Bring along a utility bill to estimate the  savings generated from three types of solar and efficiency investment for use with most Wisconsin utilities.   Request Calculator via email.

Petition  - Stop Utility Abuse of Property in Wisconsin

PETITION.  Support stronger environmental protections for thousands of miles of electrical power line right of ways in Wisconsin by signing this petition to the WI PSC asking the agency to adopt widely accepted vegetation management practices for creating diverse plant communities with small trees and shrubs that reduce maintenance and enhance wildlife habitat, forest ecology and aesthetic values..

Discover clever, low-cost ways to become a Load Defector to promote better energy policies while saving your household or business lots of money. If your household electric bill is greater than 700 kilowatt hours, per month, its likely you can make significant improvements. Learn more about the energy and emis-sion savings tips and email SOUL for your personalized, online ledger to record your month to month and year to year progress.

Crawford County
Revising the County’s Land and Water Resource Management Plan

The Crawford County Land Conservation Committee will hold a public hearing to receive public testimony and comment on the proposed revision of the current Land and Water Resource Management Plan. Comments will be heard on a first-come first-served basis. Written comments are currently being taken until 4:30 p.m. Monday, May 23 at the Crawford County Land Conservation Department, Suite 230, 225 N Beaumont, Prairie du Chien, WI.The current ordinance and proposed revision may be viewed at the Land Conservation Office or through the county web site
Call Dave Troester, Crawford County Conservationist, at 608-326-0270 for further information.

Wed,,June 2,  2016   2pm Citizens Telephone Building, New Auburn


May 12, 6:00 p.m. New Lisbon Library, 115 W Park St in New Lisbon, WI
Dena Eakles of Echo Valley Hope  will be facilitating an open discussion about the preciousness of being alive. This is a free ,family event.

The Natural Gas Gamble: A Risky Bet on America's Clean Energy Future

Assessment by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluding that dramatically expanding the use of natural gas to generate electricity creates numerous costly and complex risks for our economy, our health, and our climate.