MPUA addresses recent approval of Grain Belt Express by PSC

ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Public Utilities Alliance (MPUA) held a press call on Tuesday to discuss the Public Service Commission’s (PSC) unanimous decision in approving the Grain Belt Express (GBX).

In 1995, the Association of Electric informed municipalities in the state of Missouri that it was no longer going to be serving them. The notification forced cities involved to go out and find electric services for communities on their own, which spawned the creation of the Missouri Public Energy Pool (MoPEP) group, a subgroup of Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utilities Commission (MJMEUC).

MoPEP was founded by 16 members and has since grown to a membership of 35 cities.

A multi-state wind-energy transmission line, GBX is said to bring nearly 4,000 megawatts of power from western Kansas to parts of Missouri and Illinois, as well as some other eastern states.

“The combination of the Grain Belt transmission line and the corresponding wind farm agreement is estimated to provide $12.8 million in savings, annually, for the group of 39 cities – 35 in MoPEP and four other cities,” John Grotzinger, chief operating officer for MJMEUC and vice president of engineering, operations and power supply for MPUA, said.

The four other cities participating in the GBX project include Centralia, Hannibal, Columbia, and Kirkwood.

Mark Petty, director of Kirkwood Electric for the City of Kirkwood, Mo., and chairman of MPUA, has been in the electric business since 1985, serving in Missouri as a director of municipal utility since 2006.

“The public power footprint is typically rural, municipal utilities – utilities that are owned by the local cities…generally averaged at about the size of 2,000 meters of customers,” Petty said. “We really represent what is the makeup of the larger land mass of Missouri…We’re all in this together, we’re really all the same when we talk about the type of customers we have both rural, agricultural, and local.”

With this project, the transmission line is expected to deliver wind power to initially 350,000 customers in Missouri while also providing the benefits that MPUA provides as a municipal utility, lows cost rates with reliable service and stability.

“This particular transmission project allows us to have wind generation contracted for over 20 years,” Petty said.

Kirkwood Electric is 10,000 meters, three-quarters of the city. Governed by the city’s council, Petty said they were directed to go out and find low cost, renewable energy in their portfolio, this projects allows them to do that.

Petty shared that beginning in August of 2016, the MPUA has gone through an extensive process for the approval of the project in which the PSC heard an “enormous” amount of information and facts from individuals who were required to swear in and provide factual data.

According to the “contractually committed numbers,” Kirkwood is estimated to save $1 million annual by itself due to the low cost associated with the wind power and then the low cost of transmission that it would be to use to bring that power to the city.

“We’re talking about a transmission system that is badly in need some upgrades that would allow us to take this additional capacity and bring this power in,” Petty said. “Our job is to provide low cost, reliable power for an extensive period of time. This particular project does that.”

Recently, the Missouri House of Representatives heard legislation that would kill the project that would benefit Missourians, according to MPUA. Grotzinger shared that the organization is obviously concerned with the current activity occurring in the House and the potential concerns that it could bring, but ultimately they anticipate the project to move forward.

“We originally targeted and expected this to be done in 2022,” Grotzinger said. “It looks like there will be some delays which we’re addressing interim, and [we’re] expecting and preparing for some additional delays beyond the 2022 [date].”

Dennis Klusmeyer, superintendent for the City of Shelbina, Mo., mentioned the state impact of the project, which would result in an investment inside of Missouri’s economy of approximately $500 million.

“I think this project in Missouri is worth the effort and well needed,” Klusmeyer said. “We are in need of infrastructure improvements across the state and across the county.”