November 19, 2016 /
Duluth News Tribune
“Wind is on the list (of factors driving Minnesota Power’s request to raise rates). But it’s not the biggest factor of the five factors that they have on that list. I would say driving their need for investment (is the utility’s) need (for) more generation, period. The comparison isn’t pay more for renewables or don’t pay anything. It’s how much will we pay for the renewable energy vs. what are the other options that the utility has. It needs to make some generation investment largely to start replacing some aging (infrastructure). So, before investing in wind and hydro — and their coal unit, as well — they went through a really in-depth resource-planning process at the state regulatory level where they had to kind of lay out all the options, (with) everyone, all the parties involved, to figure out which combination of resources is the most reliable and the least cost. And through that process, that’s why their investment in renewables is higher even than what the state policy requires. …
“Wind is significantly cheaper, and its cost has continued to come down since (2013 when the all-in cost of wind power was $80 per megawatt hour compared to $95 per megawatt hour for coal). …
“Minnesota Power has asked for what adds up to a 28 percent average increase in residential rates, and I think it’s important to keep in mind that they don’t get all they ask for. In the last 30 years, Minnesota Power hasn’t gotten more than 66 percent of what they asked for. So, (my Citizens Utility Board) and a lot of other groups are going to be digging into all their filings, making sure that all of those cost increases are justified. I think it’s a reasonable assumption that it will be coming in somewhat lower than what the utility asked for.”
Annie Levenson-Falk, executive director in St. Paul of the Citizens Utility Board, a consumer-advocacy organization that has been digging into Minnesota Power’s rate-case filings, in an interview last week with the News Tribune Opinion page
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