Contributed..SOUL of Wisconsin (SOUL) and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) have filed a request to reopen the CapX2020 Hampton La Crosse high-voltage power line docket at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) on January 9, 2014. According to attorney Carol Overland, who filed the request on behalf of SOUL and CETF, “The PSC has the authority to reopen a case for any reason and at any time, including to reverse or modify a decision. New information has become available that negates or defers the need for the line, and decreases the projected benefits and value of the line. We ask the PSC to use its discretion to consider the impact of this information.” New information cited includes unrealized growth in electrical demand, increased potential to further reduce demand, changes in La Crosse area electrical resources, and a court ruling regarding land-owner compensation. The October 2013 Badger Coulee transmission line application was also noted. SOUL and CETF applaud the PSC for deeming the Badger Coulee application incomplete and asking for roughly 19 single-spaced pages of additional or updated information. Much of the requested information regarding load, demand, and options for meeting the claimed “need” reduce the need, benefits and value of both projects. PSC approval of CapX2020 was based on a 1.46% average growth in electrical demand through 2020 and a bit less thereafter. Since the approval, rather than 1.46% growth, applicant Dairyland Power experienced a 9.4% 2-year decline. Applicant Xcel Energy shows slight declines in Wisconsin, a 1.2% decline in Minnesota, and does not forecast a rapid rebound. This new information shows the forecast to be grossly overstated. Another key driver in the PSC’s acceptance of CapX2020 “need” was uncertainty if Xcel would re-open a “peaking station” at its French Island plant near La Crosse. The PSC determined that access to this generator would address peak-load issues in the La Crosse area and noted that $1.9 million for restarting the generator was a reasonable investment when compared to the $211 million cost of the Wisconsin portion of the CapX2020 Hampton-La Crosse ransmission line. However, the Commission found restarting French Island Unit #3 to be uncertain, and instead approved the CapX2020 Hampton- La Crosse line. Recently, though, in a Minnesota Public Utility Commission (PUC) filing, Xcel said it would be repairing the generator to make it operational. In the filing, Xcel also acknowledged further potential to reduce total and peak demand. The PUC ordered  Excel to use these options in its resource planning. When combined with slower than forecasted growth, these measures eliminate the local reliability need for CapX2020 transmission. Need and benefits for CapX2020 also depend on constructing the Badger Coulee line. Badger Coulee provides the foundation for large transfer capacity benefits that will not be achieved by CapX2020 alone such that the $514-$548 million cost for Badger Coulee line should have been considered. When the costs of these functionally joined lines are combined, costs more  than triple what was considered and approved by the PSC. The physical, electrical, and policy connections between the CapX2020 and unapproved Badger-Coulee projects, together with the imminent Mississippi River crossing, make re-evaluating the CapX2020 approval timely, appropriate and prudent.

Contributed by Debra Severson