July 26, 2018 – Texas Public Utility Commission unanimously rejected American Electric Power’s Wind Catcher project, a what would be the largest-ever wind farm in the U.S. In addition to the wind farm facility, which is almost twice the size of Singapore, the $4.5 billion project also includes a 360-mile, 765 kV transmission line. The Bloomberg article states that “American Electric’s proposal tapped a financial model that utilities have long used to build nuclear, coal- and natural gas-fired plants: by tacking costs -- plus a profit -- onto customers’ bills.”
It’s clear that in order to reach the clean renewable energy goals targeted by many states, wind energy must play a significant role. Here in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has directed to the NJ Board of Public Utilities to put off-shore wind on a fast track.
As a general principle, we support these clean renewable energy initiatives. However, it is also incumbent on regulators and utility companies to develop a rational plan that balances concerns of all stakeholders including ratepayers. Too often these projects follow the old playbooks motivated by profits to utility companies or transmission companies at the expense of ratepayers (and, often, local property owners).
We applaud the Texas Public Utility Commission in making a decision to reject the project based on concerns for ratepayers citing that costs are known but “the benefits are based on a lot of assumptions that are questionable.” This should give hope to other citizen groups in similar situations!
Picture of PUC Commissioners Shelly Botkin, DeAnn Walker and Arthur D’Andrea.