Commission withholds support for $1.3 Billion in guaranteed ratepayer benefit
On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) voted, against their staff’s recommendation, to postpone a crucial vote that would allow SWEPCO to acquire Wind Catcher, a 2,000 MW wind farm in Oklahoma, planned as the country’s largest wind farm. According to project supporters, this could mean trouble for the deal.
“When the majority of customers served by this project are Louisianans, Louisiana needs to take a stand for their rate-payers. Waiting to see how the vote plays out in surrounding states, like Oklahoma and Texas, is not acting in our rate-payers’ best interest,” said Jessica Hendricks from the Alliance for Affordable Energy.
The settlement agreement reached among the stakeholders in this proceeding, Wal-Mart, Sam’s West, SWECPO, and LPSC staff, details very specific, unprecedented benefits that are guaranteed to SWEPCO customers including a net savings of $1.3 Billion, guaranteed 45% capacity value for the expected 2,000 MW generation, and a cap on cost-recovery at 103%. These safeguards would keep SWEPCO on the hook, not rate-
payers, should Wind Catcher underproduce energy due to inconsistent wind, or if construction expenditures exceed 103% of the projected cost. Additionally, GE has informally agreed to produce components for 400 of the wind turbines needed for Wind Catcher in Louisiana, creating much needed jobs in the state.
“Low-cost wind power, wherever it is generated, is a benefit for Louisiana ratepayers that will keep our businesses competitive. Renewable energy attracts multinational businesses to the state, and means reliable bills that don’t fluctuate with an unpredictable traditional energy market. We’re disappointed to see the result of this week’s vote, but trust that the commission majority will move this project forward promptly, in the interest of our economy. “Jeff Cantin, Gulf States Renewable Energy.
Commissioners Foster Campbell and Lambert Boissiere both expressed their support for the landmark project, describing the opportunities it would bring to the state. Campbell, whose district’s ratepayers would receive the greatest benefit, also described frustration with recent attack ads coming from unidentified opponents of the project.
View SWEPCO's Wind Catcher Project Website
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UPDATE: SWEPCO has filed a motion for rehearing at the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC), following a recommendation for approval from a Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Texas. At their May 16th meeting, the LPSC voted to table their decision on the Wind Catcher project, pending the approval in Texas and Oklahoma. The ALJ decision in Texas is definitely a step in the right direction but is is enough? The Texas Public Utilities Commission is expected to vote on the ALJ’s recommendation at their July 12th meeting.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma, the Corporate Commission requested that American Electric Power (AEP), SWEPCO’s parent company, reach additional settlement agreements with stakeholders prior to approval, and AEP was able to do just that! Last week, four additional supporters signed on to the revised settlement agreement.
We’ll have to wait until Friday to see if it makes on the LPSC’s Agenda for the June meeting, but we’re still excited to see the project moving forward despite the hold up here in Louisiana.
About the Alliance for Affordable Energy:
The Alliance for Affordable Energy safeguards Louisiana’s future by protecting consumers’ right to an affordable, equitable, and environmentally responsible energy system.