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Public intervenors call Badger Coulee benefits into question
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Public intervenors representing electric customer interests in the controversial Badger-Coulee transmission proposal have petitioned the Public Service Commission (PSC) to re-hear the case.

The project was approved last month and intervenors are asking the commission to determine whether it would have any economic benefit for ratepayers under current trend of flat and declining energy use.

Savings potential from high capacity transmission lines generally declines as energy use drops. The petition submitted by S.O.U.L. of Wisconsin (SOUL) and Citizens Energy Task Force (CETF) cites evidence from the Paddock-Rockdale transmission line approved in 2009 where economic planning shows loses to ratepayers at today’s energy use levels. New information released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), confirms that energy use in Wisconsin has declined 2% since 2008 with a similar trend regionally and nationally.

Throughout the PSC’s review process, American Transmission Company and XCEL Energy (co-applicants in the case) refused to predict growth rates in their benefit calculations wide enough to anticipate zero and negative growth. Petitioners claim that assuming energy use in Wisconsin will always grow is unsound reasoning.

Says Rob Danielson, secretary of SOUL, “There are indications that contrary to terms of PSC approval, the project could make energy cost more than if the line was not built. These costs would be felt in addition to the negative impacts on local economies where the line would be located.”

According to petition citations from the DOE and EIA, the energy reductions are attributable to, “slower population growth, dramatic improvements in the efficiency of household appliances, and a shift in the economy to less energy-intensive industries.”  The DOE report confirms that economic growth is no longer dependent upon using more electricity and the trend is projected to continue at least through 2040.

The PSC has 30 days to consider the request of the intervenors before responding.