CETF and SOUL Petition Wisconsin PSC for Rehearing on Badger-Coulee

The decision by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to approve the Badger-Coulee Transmission Line was a black mark on the integrity of three commissioners charged with protecting the ratepayers of Wisconsin. A question posed two years ago by then Senator Dale Schultz, “Where is the Public in the PSC?” continues to resonate throughout the state when three commissioners  approve transmission lines that defy what is best for the ratepayers of Wisconsin. Their actions leave the state with a sad legacy of corporate interests first and human and environmental health, the beauty of Wisconsin, and the right of a state to determine its own destiny not even in the game.

Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) and Save our Unique Lands (SOUL) have filed a petition with the Wisconsin PSC for rehearing. You can read the petition by clicking on this link: CETF/SOUL_BadgerCouleeRehearingRequest

Here’s a link to a second petition for rehearing filed with the PSC on Segment A. Petition for Rehearing / Holland and Segment A

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The joint CETF / SOUL press release reads as follows:

Public Intervenors Call Claimed Benefits from Badger-Coulee Transmission Proposal into Question

Public intervenors representing electric customer interests in the controversial Badger-Coulee transmission proposal have petitioned the Public Service Commission (PSC) to re-hear the case.  The project was approved last month and intervenors are asking the commission to determine whether it would have any economic benefit for ratepayers under current trend of flat and declining energy use.

Savings potential from high capacity transmission lines generally declines as energy use drops. The petition submitted by S.O.U.L. of Wisconsin (SOUL) and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) cites evidence from the Paddock-Rockdale transmission line approved in 2009 where economic planning shows loses to ratepayers at today’s energy use levels. New information released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), confirms that energy use in Wisconsin has declined 2% since 2008 with a similar trend regionally and nationally.

Throughout the PSC’s review process, American Transmission Company and XCEL Energy (co-applicants in the case) refused to predict growth rates in their benefit calculations wide enough to anticipate zero and negative growth. Petitioners claim that assuming energy use in Wisconsin will always grow is unsound reasoning. Says Rob Danielson, secretary of SOUL, “There are indications that contrary to terms of PSC approval , the project could make energy cost more than if the line was not built. These costs would be felt in addition to the negative impacts on local economies where the line would be located.”

According to petition citations from the DOE and EIA, the energy reductions are attributable to, “slower population growth, dramatic improvements in the efficiency of household appliances, and a shift in the economy to less energy-intensive industries. ”  The DOE report confirms that economic growth is no longer dependent upon using more electricity and the trend is projected to continue at least through 2040.

“The ability to use less energy and save home, farm and business costs will only improve,“ observes Rob Danielson, secretary of SOUL. “It is highly appropriate for the Commission to ask American Transmission Company and XCEL to demonstrate for Wisconsin ratepayers that Badger-Coulee would prove beneficial as we continue reducing waste.  It is not respectful of Wisconsin’s business climate to envision increasing energy use as a means of building a stronger state economy. Energy efficiency and developing local power were a much preferred direction by hundreds of ratepayers filing comments on this case.”

Two nationally respected engineers with years of expertise in transmission, energy efficiency and distributed generation developed a “No Wires”  alternative to the 150 mile project. They estimate the cost of their alternative to be less than 1/30th of cost of the transmission project and return guaranteed savings from efficiency, community solar and load management several times over.

Jane Powers, a public intervenor from Mauston who supports the petition adds,   “As ratepayers would have to pay for the line whether it is needed or not, we deserve to be able to evaluate all energy options.  So far, the transmission builders have refused to demonstrate that their project can compete money-wise, and provide a complete cost for the line after high interest financing over 40 years is added. I’m not comfortable with the quality of the information ratepayers have received to date.“

In their new report, the Department of Energy is encouraging states to make sure that, “all the benefits of efficiency are realized, including avoiding the expense of building new infrastructure.”

The Public Service Commission has 30 days to consider the request of the intervenors before responding. The Town of Holland near Holmen, Wisconsin is preparing a formal appeal of the proposal as well.