Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Texas PUC Issues Final Order for SPS Wind Farm

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s finally official. Southwestern Public Service can now begin construction on its 478-MW wind farm in West Texas.

The state’s Public Utility Commission on Friday quickly approved a second draft order of the utility’s request for a certificate of convenience and necessity and a power purchase agreement with Bonita Wind Energy. The commissioners had given their verbal approval in April but delayed a final order to allow parties in the docket additional time to provide written responses to their questions (No. 46936). (See Texas PUC Delays Final Approval of SPS Wind Farm.)

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SPS CEO David Hudson (left), legal counsel Ron Moss | © RTO Insider

“We’re just pleased we now have a resolution in hand and a final order,” said SPS CEO David Hudson, noting it was the fourth time the utility has appeared before the commission in hopes of receiving a final order. “We can now begin construction on the Hale [County] project and the Sagamore project” in New Mexico.

SPS expects to have the Hale project in service no later than 2019, at a cost of $769 million, so that it will be able to receive 100% of its federal production tax credits.

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PUC Chair DeAnn Walker (left), Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea trade opinions during May 25 open meeting. | © RTO Insider

PUC Chair DeAnn Walker had expressed concerns over SPS’ proposal to recover costs by flowing PTCs through fuel, but she was satisfied with the parties’ responses.

The wind farm is part of a 1.23-GW project by SPS parent Xcel Energy that will provide renewable energy to SPS customers in Texas and New Mexico. The utility says the project will save its retail customers about $1.6 billion in energy costs over its 30-year life.

SPS had reached a settlement agreement in February with all parties in the docket but two, the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 602 and Lea County Electric Cooperative. However, neither opposed the settlement.

Commission Streamlines Smart Meter Texas Portal

The PUC also approved a final order streamlining Smart Meter Texas (SMT), the state’s web portal, and aligning it with national data-transfer standards (Docket No. 47472).

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The PUC of Texas’ hearing room during May 25 open meeting. | © RTO Insider

SMT is maintained by utilities AEP Texas, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, Oncor and Texas-New Mexico Power. It allows customers to download and view their energy data or share them with competitive service providers (CSPs), companies that market energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation and other services.

Transmission and distribution providers are prohibited from selling, sharing or disclosing advanced meter data but are required to provide “convenient, secure, read-only access” to a customer, the customer’s retail electric provider and other entities authorized by the customer. The data include meter readings used to calculate charges for service, historical load and other proprietary customer information.

The order requires the utilities to support the portal’s home area network (HAN) functionality through their advanced metering systems. It also forbids them from disconnecting an existing HAN device from the meter without the customer’s requests. The HAN devices are costly and have had few takers for their services.

PUC staff last year requested the commission determine what changes, if any, should be made for SMT’s continued operation while its contract was being renegotiated. The four utilities signed a joint development and operations agreement for SMT that dates back to December 2008.

The utilities reached a unanimous settlement agreement in January, with the only contested issue related to the maximum time period that a residential customer or smaller commercial customer may grant a CSP access to the customer’s SMT data, without the customer affirmatively renewing the access.

The commission adopted an administrative law judge’s recommendation that the maximum time period remain 12 months.

PUC to Intervene in SPP-AEP Filing Before FERC

Following its executive session, the PUC moved to intervene in SPP’s recent FERC filing on behalf of American Electric Power (ER18-1541, ER18-1542).

SPP made a compliance filing on May 8 to revise AEP West’s transmission formula rate to reflect the recent change in the federal corporate income tax rate (ER18-63). The filing was made on behalf of AEP Service Corp. and its AEP Oklahoma Transmission and AEP Southwestern Transmission affiliates.

The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority and DC Transco have already intervened.

— Tom Kleckner