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The real reason for special session may be blowing in the wind

The real reason for special session may be blowing in the wind

Rumor has it that the real reason our banjo picking Governor wants a special session has more to do with industrial wind – meaning his favorite monopoly Xcel Energy – and less to do with fixing our damn roads!

Governor John Hickenlooper publicly says he may call a special session “to deal with topics that he felt it [the Colorado Legislature] didn’t address thoroughly enough, particularly transportation funding and the soon-to-be-shuttered Colorado Energy Office,” wrote Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal.

Sources tell me that Governor John Hickenlooper really wants the state legislature to anoint in statute Xcel’s big plans for industrial wind, and he is trying to get the oil and gas industry to support it as well, likely because natural gas is the preferred back-up generation for industrial wind.

All of this stems from an amendment that sources say the Governor and Xcel wanted inserted into SB17-301, a bill that would have re-authorized the troubled Colorado Energy Office, albeit with a much different mission, and allowed monopoly utilities like Xcel and Black Hills to hedge their natural gas reserves with long-term contracts.

The amendment was written specifically for or by Xcel Energy and its pending Electric Resource Plan (ERP), which was predicated on a Hillary Clinton victory and the continuation of the controversial and costly Clean Power Plan. The key passage is:

Rate-regulated utilities that provide electric service to more than five hundred thousand meters [only Xcel] in Colorado shall supplement any pending Electric Resource Plan with an application to enable the develop of eligible energy sources as defined under section 40-2-124(1)(a), to manage or reduce long-term total bill impacts to customers on a net present value basis. The utility may incorporate any appropriate strategy to accomplish the goals of this subsection (1)(d), including among other things construction of supporting infrastructure necessary to implement the proposal. Within the pending Electric Resource Plan Proceeding, the utility may elect to own fifty percent of the nameplate capacity of the eligible energy resources [industrial wind], seventy-five percent of the nameplate capacity of natural gas-fired generation and all of the associated supporting infrastructure. A utility is entitled to fully recover the costs that it prudently incurs in executing any of the approved proposal through a rate adjustment clause until the costs are included in the utility’s base rate.

In layman’s terms, this language blesses Xcel to build and majority own industrial wind and natural gas back up, build and own all of the infrastructure, and pass all the costs along to ratepayers. It would complete the process of converting Xcel from pig to hog status.

The amendment was supposed to get introduced in the House on third reading of SB17-301 on the last day of the legislative session. For reasons that aren’t completely clear, it never was. Sources tell me both Xcel and the Governor wanted it. The bill died anyway when the GOP-controlled Senate refused to accept other amendments from the Democrat-controlled House.

Couple of things to keep in mind. First, Xcel doesn’t need to build more capacity because it has surplus right now and for the near future. Xcel just wants to build because that’s how the monopoly profits and its top executives get rewarded. Second, Xcel is already paying wholesale generators to take electricity produced from its excess generation capacity because building, producing, and selling wind electricity is so lucrative for Xcel, although not so much for taxpayers and ratepayers.

Remember, Xcel floated something similar this earlier in the session. The bill was never introduced. Perhaps it couldn’t find a legislator willing to sponsor such obvious greed. The campaign ad practically writes itself.

Xcel dreams aren’t dead yet. Our banjo-strumming Governor may give the monopoly’s industrial wind fantasies new life with a special session. Unfortunately, if you are stuck in traffic, searching for a solution from the Governor’s office is like spitting into the wind.

Amy Cooke
ADMINISTRATOR
PROFILE