Municipal utility commission green lights purchase to transmit wind power

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An organization that represents Missouri municipal utilities has given the green light to buy space on a transmission line that would transport wind power from western Kansas, through Missouri and to points further east, providing electricity in the Show-Me State to municipal customers along the way.

The Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission, or MJMEUC, approved a proposal Thursday that it says will increase the public power agency’s renewal energy supply by buying long-term transmission service on the Grain Belt Express Clean Line transmission project. According to the agreement, the group – which represents municipal utilities that pool their resources to buy power – can buy up to 200 megawatts of transmission space on the Grain Belt Express.

“Historically, the biggest challenge to adding renewable energy to our resource mix has been price and transmission,” said Kyle Gibbs, general manager for Marshall Municipal Utilities. “This agreement solves both of those issues and delivers tremendous benefits to our member municipalities and their customers.”

The agreement between Grain Belt Express and MJMEUC, which serves 67 municipalities throughout Missouri, is expected to save ratepayers at least $10 million annually when the project becomes operational, according to an analysis performed by the MJMEUC.

The Grain Belt Express transmission project will provide MJMEUC member municipalities with long-term transmission access to wind energy from western Kansas, where power can be produced at some of the lowest costs in the country, according to MJMEUC.

The group’s agreement for transmission service with Grain Belt Express, along with a power purchase agreement with a wind generator in western Kansas, will allow a number of MJMEUC’s member-city utilities to secure delivered wind energy at less than three cents per kilowatt hour for up to 25 years, if the Missouri Public Service Commission approves the Grain Belt Express Clean Line.

That pitch has been a tough sell in the past. The Public Service Commission nixed the project last summer on a 3-2 vote after opposition arose from property owners along the route of the project.

Still, organizers are optimistic it will happen.

“The Grain Belt Express transmission project will help reduce electricity prices to consumers and satisfy increasing customer and business demand for clean energy,” said MJMEUC President and General Manager Duncan Kincheloe. “This agreement, along with a PPA for wind energy, will save our member utilities more than $10 million annually since it is timed to replace more costly power contracts for fossil fuel fired generation that will expire as this project is scheduled to come on line.”

Clean Line president Michael Skelly called Thursday’s move a “great opportunity” for thousands of utility customers across Missouri to access the benefits of low-cost wind power delivered directly to the Missouri grid.

“We are pleased to have the Missouri municipal utilities as a customer for the Grain Belt Express and look forward to applying for regulatory approval in Missouri soon,” he said. “This is a great step forward for the Grain Belt Express.”

The initial subscriber for MJMEUC is the group of 35 cities known as the Missouri Public Energy Pool (MoPEP) that procure all of their energy from MJMEUC.

The Grain Belt Express Clean Line is a touted as a transmission line that will deliver 500 megawatts of low-cost wind power from western Kansas to Missouri. The Grain Belt Express transmission project will also deliver power to the Illinois, Indiana border. Missouri is the last state of four states where approval is needed for the Grain Belt Express Clean Line; regulatory commissions in Kansas, Illinois and Indiana have approved the project.