The Missouri Public Service Commission PSC) has approved a request filed by Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC (Grain Belt) which sought Commission authority and a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to construct, own, operate, control, manage and maintain a high voltage, direct current transmission line and associated facilities within eight Missouri counties (Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Carroll, Chariton, Randolph, Monroe and Ralls). The Commission’s vote was 5-0. The Grain Belt project would traverse the states of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, including approximately 206 miles in Missouri.
Missouri’s municipal electric utilities are encouraged by the decision stating the transmission line will bring low-cost, clean energy into the state, noting the unanimous vote of five independent commissioners appointed by multiple Governors affirms that the project is in the public interest of all Missourians.
“We are pleased with today’s action by the Public Service Commission,” said Duncan Kincheloe, President and General Manager of the Missouri Public Utility Alliance. “The transmission project, along with a power purchase wind energy agreement, will deliver low-cost renewable electricity to Missouri homes and businesses, saving 39 non-profit municipal utilities in Missouri more than $10 million annually.”
In June 2016, the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) approved a proposal to increase the public power agency’s renewable energy supply by purchasing long-term transmission service on the GBX transmission project to allow delivery of affordable wind power. It is timed to replace more costly power contracts set to expire as the transmission project is scheduled to come on line.
MJMEUC has contracted with the project to utilize transmission delivery, with the beneficiaries of the contract, being the 35 cities of the Missouri Public Power Energy Pool (MoPEP) including the City of Memphis, along with the cities of Centralia, Columbia, Hannibal, and Kirkwood.
According to what MoPEP terms as conservative estimates, there will be at least a $12.8 million annual delivered wholesale supply savings collectively for this group of cities. This savings includes delivered energy – generation and transmission – from agreements MJMEUC has acquired from Iron Star Wind in Kansas, and the Grain Belt Transmission project.
For the 35-city MoPEP power pool, the collective savings is estimated to be at least $10 million annually for twenty years. This savings is based on the expected displacement of long-term contracted energy that is to expire in 2021. For the remaining cities, the savings is based on displacing RTO market-based energy with this firm energy and transmission contract.
MoPEP said savings will vary for its members based on the amount of energy purchased. The average community savings across the group is $338,000 annually with an estimated high of $1.2 million, to a low of $39,000.
The PSC granted the certificate of convenience to Grain Belt determining: 1) there is a need for the service; 2) Grain Belt is qualified to provide the proposed service; 3) Grain Belt has the financial ability to provide the proposed service; 4) Grain Belt’s proposal is economically feasible; and 5) the service promotes the public interest.
The Commission stated the evidence in the case demonstrated that the Grain Belt project will create both short-term and long-term benefits to ratepayers and citizens of the state. In addition, the project would have a substantial and favorable effect on the reliability of electric service in Missouri.
“There can be no debate that our energy future will require more diversity in energy resources, particularly renewable resources,” said the Commission. “We are witnessing a worldwide, long-term and comprehensive movement towards renewable energy in general and wind energy specifically. Wind energy provides great promise as a source for affordable, reliable, safe and environmentally-friendly energy. The Grain Belt Project will facilitate this movement in Missouri, will thereby benefit Missouri citizens, and is, therefore, in the public interest.”
The Commission noted that any negative impacts of the project on the land and landowners will be mitigated by: 1) a landowner protocol to protect landowners; 2) superior compensation payments; 3) a binding arbitration option for easement negotiations; 4) a decommissioning fund-a fund for this type of project would be the first of its kind in the country; and 5) an agricultural impact mitigation protocol to avoid or minimize negative agricultural impacts. Agricultural impacts will also be reduced because no more than nine acres of land in Missouri will be taken out of agricultural production as a result of project structures, and the proposed route does not directly impact the operation of any existing center pivot irrigation systems.
“Many of the landowners’ concerns will be addressed through carefully considered conditions placed on the CCN,” said the Commission.