News from Patrick Flynn

Electric consolidation

The previously mentioned proposal for ML&P and CEA to jointly build a 200+ megawatt, natural gas-fired power plant near Minnesota and International won approval Tuesday night, but it was not a unanimous decision. The local paper had a brief article on the subject Thursday.

What the paper didn’t report was the massive volume of material reviewed by several Assembly members, myself included, after ML&P employees began calling and e-mailing documents questioning the site selection. The concerns raised were legitimate but left me frustrated with the way we received information. Specifically, the management of ML&P and CEA have been working on this project for many months and, until they basically had it done, they never briefed Assembly members on their deliberations. That meant we had no insight into the deliberative process until anonymous sources began leaking documents to us.

Once we realized the level of dissent within the ranks of ML&P staff Assembly members demanded, and got, quite a bit more documentation, which addressed most of the concerns raised by the anonymous information we’d received. I read quite a bit over last weekend, asked lots of questions and came to some conclusions.

  • The joint power plant is a very good deal for CEA.
  • The plant is not a bad deal for ML&P, but not necessarily the best possible deal.
  • The opportunity to commence consolidation of power generation in Southcentral Alaska, an economic & public policy goal that has eluded us for decades, was the most attractive aspect of the deal.

Interestingly, representatives from MEA appeared at most of the work sessions, committee meetings and the Assembly meeting on this topic. They apparently have 30 days to also join this deal, which would further enhance both the economics and public policy import of the agreement.

With all these factors in mind we adopted three amendments to the participation plan:

  1. A requirement to include some portion of a ML&P-needed transmission line in the project (meaning CEA will bear some of the cost),
  2. A requirement to revisit methods for using the waste heat, and
  3. Instruction to seek to include MEA in the project.

This made the deal better for ML&P, and we approved the ordinance on a 7-3 vote (I was a yes). This was not an easy decision for me and represented only the Assembly’s first step in this project. As I said at the meeting, I’ll be keeping close watch on the progress, or lack thereof, and keep that information at the fore when we are asked to continue providing the financial support necessary to move this project forward.

Interesting post-script: the FAA, which had previously issued a “Determination of No Hazard to Air Navigation” for the project authored a memo requesting that we seek a different site for the plant after we voted. I could say something about the federal government, but instead I’ll simply note that there are quite a few engineering and permit issues that will need to be addressed over the next year. Keep an eye on this one!



This contribution was made on Friday, 22. August 2008 at 16:30 and was published under the category Energy. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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