Monthly Archives: September 2013

Is it all connected?

You may be familiar with Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline, soon to be applied for and on a route similar to that of the Not-So-Great Northern transmission line.  As if that isn’t bad enough, last week, Minnesota Power announced another intersection between transmission lines and pipelines…

Looking at the footprints of the Not-So-Great Northern transmission line and Sandpiper pipeline, at what’s been proposed thus far, it seems that it fits together, that combining them is the rest of the story.

But does it?  What does Minnesota Power have in mind with its “Energy Corridor?”  There’s the Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line (Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission Line), and there’s the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline, look at the maps and similar routes.  But is it all connected?  Or is there even more in store?  How much do these companies want?

The Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line:


And there’s the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline:


And then there’s this, the Allete Energy Corridor and it looks quite different:


There are significant differences… the Allete Energy Corridor is further south, headed straight east to Duluth.  But look at the map that is in the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline Notice Plan, the “Preferred Route.”  It’s also south:

Sandpiper pdf Overview_Notice Maps_MN_090913

Do they need both? the diagonal route to Duluth and the one straight across Minnesota?  Is this all one and the same project(s)?  Or worse, are they planning multiple corridors?  As we say in transmission, it’s all connected.

So do tell, what’s the connection with or difference between the corridors of these announced projects, one transmission and one pipeline, and this “energy corridor.”  Enbridge must submit more detailed maps for the Notice Plan, so we should see soon their “preference.”

Meanwhile, what’s Allete up to?  Seems it started over two years ago:

ALLETE Clean Energy Press Release   7.28.11

And then last Wednesday:

ALLETE Energy Corridor Would Offer Efficient Movement of Multiple Products, from Flared Gas to Water

by Business Wire via The Motley Fool Sep 25th 2013 12:30PM
Updated Sep 25th 2013 12:32PM

ALLETE Energy Corridor Would Offer Efficient Movement of Multiple Products, from Flared Gas to Water to Carbon

N.D. governor supports comprehensive solution

BISMARCK, N.D.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– ALLETE (NYS: ALE) today laid out its vision for a comprehensive energy transportation corridor that could help provide solutions for the movement of natural gas, petroleum products, water and wastewater, wind energy and future sequestered carbon across a coordinated, shared right-of-way.

The energy corridor’s backbone would follow an existing 465-mile path that contains a direct current transmission line running between Center, N.D. and Duluth, Minn. This 250-kilovolt line, purchased in 2009, is used to transmit electric energy from the lignite-fired Young Generating Station in Center and the nearby Bison Wind Energy Center to Duluth, Minn., home of the nation’s busiest inland seaport. The energy corridor would expand a pathway along strategic portions of the existing right of way to minimize land use and optimize energy delivery infrastructure development within North Dakota.

A top priority of the ALLETE Energy Corridor is to develop an extension of the existing energy delivery path some 60 miles westward to the burgeoning Bakken shale oil fields of west-central North Dakota. ALLETE subsidiary ALLETE Clean Energy has been working diligently with potential partners to study the co-location of facilities and assess the capital needs for the Bakken link. It is envisioned that various lengths of the corridor would be used for different purposes.

“We see the ALLETE Energy Corridor as a comprehensive infrastructure solution in North Dakota that could serve many products and producers across the region,” said ALLETE President, Chairman and CEO Alan R. Hodnik. “We value Gov. Dalrymple’s support of our vision and appreciate him bringing it forward to other members of the state’s energy sector.”

“ALLETE has been invested in North Dakota for decades,” Hodnik added. “We are confident that our rich history of partnering with others can help forge creative solutions to today’s new challenges facing energy markets in the Upper Midwest.”

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple voiced support of the ALLETE Energy Corridor today in remarks to EmPower North Dakota, a commission established to develop a comprehensive energy policy for the state. He said the energy corridor concept is a prime example of the way business can creatively tackle pressing problems like the proliferation of flare gas at oil wells dotting the Bakken field, and the traffic tie-ups caused by too many trucks and trains hauling petroleum products to market.

“The ALLETE Energy Corridor is a breakthrough opportunity to reduce flaring by locating a major natural gas pipeline from the Bakken to eastern markets,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said. “While the corridor would support the transfer of many energy resources, it could also carry carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants to western North Dakota for use in advanced oil recovery.”

The ALLETE Energy Corridor could accommodate several pipelines capable of transporting natural gas that would otherwise be flared, as well as wastewater and carbon sequestered from fossil fuel generation. Future wind expansions could also benefit.

“We look forward to working with project developers and government officials to implement this vision,” said Eric Norberg, president of ALLETE Clean Energy. “We have an opportunity to pursue investments that will help solve some current issues and lay the groundwork for more efficient movement of energy products, water and wastewater in the future.”

More information about the ALLETE Energy Corridor can be found

ALLETE, Inc., an energy company based in Duluth, Minn., has a well-established presence in North Dakota that includes BNI Coal, now undergoing a major expansion to extend coal delivery to its partner Minnkota Power, and the Bison Wind Energy Center, where work on a $350 million fourth phase is scheduled to begin this year. ALLETE’s energy businesses also include Minnesota Power, Superior Water, Light & Power Co. and ALLETE Clean Energy. More information about the company is available at

The statements contained in this release and statements that ALLETE may make orally in connection with this release that are not historical facts, are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties and investors are directed to the risks discussed in documents filed by ALLETE with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


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Need for the Great Northern Transmission Line?

It’s all about need.  They’re starting out with a Certificate of Need proceeding, where the applicant has to demonstrate to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that the project is needed.

To see what’s happened so far on this docket, and to subscribe so you receive notice of filings and can keep up to date, go to the PUC’s Search Docket page, and search for this docket, 12-1163.

What reasons does Minnesota Power give as the need for this line, what type of need, how much?  Here’s what their Notice of Intent to File for a Presidential Permit says:

So of the ~1200 MW capacity, 250 MW is for a Power Purchase Agreement and 750 MW is for export.  1/4 is for an identified claimed need, and 3/4 is for marketing bulk power… to where?  Minnesota Power doesn’t say…

Here’s their Letter of Intent:

Notice of Intent – Presidential Permit

So what’s the plan here?  This is the map of options studied at MISO:

As you can see, the idea is to bring the power down from Manitoba Hydro, across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, over the up and down toward Detroit.  That map is taken from the MISO Northern Area Study, as reported to the Committee on February 12, 2013:

20130212 Northern Area Study TRG Presentation

And starting from that map of ideas, the result is that it just doesn’t make economic sense:

So what are they going to do?  Will they really go forward with only a part of it?  Well, the Northern Area Study Report is pretty definite:

And another choice snippet:

Throughout the Northern Area Study, a total of thirty-eight different mitigation plans were proposed and evaluated. The Northern Area Study used an iterative process to refine projects. Generally, production cost saving potential for the Northern Area Study footprint was low as a result of the inclusion of the Multi-Value Project (MVP) portfolio approved in MTEP11, decreased forecasted demand growth rates, and low natural gas prices.

Here’s the entire report:

MISO Northern Area Study Final Report

So why is Minnesota Power going forward?  For the 75% market opportunity? That’s the driver for this part of the larger project to Michigan:

And here’s what Manitoba Hydro wants:

And as above, it doesn’t make economic sense.  So then what?  Can they build a line that they can’t justify economically???  Nope.  They’ve got to demonstrate they NEED it!

Stay tuned… I’ve got to run to the Ambulance Garage in Baudette!


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Thursday evening in Roseau


As the unofficial greeter, I was first outside, and then in the large foyer (?) of this amazing building.  If you’re in Roseau, you must check out this building, and in particular, the Roseau library, which is just in the front door and to the right.  It is THE most inviting library I’ve ever encountered, with muted tones, chairs around a fireplace, two-sided fire place, so two areas for comfy reading (all they need is hot chocolate and coffee), and on the far side of the fireplace is the most beautiful mosaic table ever.  They have a patio off the library, local art displayed throughout the library, even in the study rooms, a conference room.  It looks more like the living room we’d all like to have.  WOW.

The area that our friends at MP had wasn’t to shabby either:


Tomorrow is the last one this week, over in Baudette… on to some homework!


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Thursday on the transmission road show


First Greenbush, kind of a snooze, as there weren’t that many people, which isn’t surprising as it’s in the daytime, 11-1.  What I’ve noticed so far is that the small downs, while they’re slower paced and not many people, they seem to be in pretty good shape, well maintained, the local government buildings are well made, they have community centers, there’s activity on the streets, they are NOT dead, and instead I’d guess quietly thriving.  It does not feel desperate, it feels like these towns are healthy.


Here in Warroad, where I’m staying, the main highway through town is lined with flowers, and Marvin Windows too… there are a few homes in disrepair, but Red Wing looks worse.  Maybe a part of it is that it’s so green here, not brown, and the sky is SO blue, the clouds so dramatic, maybe that’s the lake:


On to Roseau next…

This transmission project is connected, literally, to Manitoba Hydro, and the hearings on the new damn dam were yesterday, and also next week:

The $20-billion question

Put public back in ‘public review’ of NDP/Hydro expansion plans

By: Will Braun

Posted: 08/19/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 19

Though Manitoba Hydro’s proposal to build two mega-dams would cost five times as much as Bipole III, it has received much less attention than the contentious $3.3-billion power line.

If that doesn’t change soon, the province’s biggest financial gamble in generations will be a done deal before the public has due opportunity to debate the pros and cons.

Hydro’s plan centres around construction of the Keeyask and Conawapa dams, projected to cost $6.2 billion and $10.2 billion respectively. Manitoba Hydro would like to have Keeyask in service by 2019 and Conawapa by 2026.

 The Selinger government and Hydro clearly decided long ago that the dams are a “go,” though public hearings are still months away and environmental reviews are far from over.

In question period last month, NDP cabinet minister Steve Ashton said, flatly, “we’re going to build Keeyask and we’re going to build Conawapa as well because that’s what Manitobans want.”

In a speech last fall, Hydro’s new CEO, Scott Thomson, said the company’s ambitious expansion plan was a “key driver” in his decision to move from British Columbia to work with Hydro.

And in an April legislative committee hearing, Dave Chomiak went further. The minister responsible for Hydro said people who try to “stop hydro development” in Manitoba are “sabotaging our children’s future.”

His comments seemed to invoke the 2012 open letter in which federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver dismissed opponents of energy projects as “radicals.” Like Chomiak, Oliver also had families and dams in mind, writing that the goal of the “radical groups” is to, “stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families… No oil. No gas. No more hydroelectric dams.”

Hydro and government are not just talking either. The utility has spent roughly $1 billion on studies, negotiations and preparatory work related to the two dams. Heavy equipment is already on the ground building an access road and work camp for Keeyask. That work was hived off of the rest of the dam project and granted approvals as the Keeyask Infrastructure Project.

Now it is time to back up the democratic wagon.

While the dams were part of the NDP election platform, they were not a central issue. The Tories talked more about Bipole III and the NDP talked more about alleged privatization of Hydro under the Tories. Plus, the government had already granted a licence for the Keeyask Infrastructure Project months prior to the 2011 election.

The electoral victory provided a degree of social licence, but it was not a blank political cheque to proceed with every element of the campaign platform regardless of public process.

Government officials would note that the upcoming Needs For and Alternatives To review — to be conducted by the Public Utilities Board — will provide for public process, but there’s a catch. Actually there are three.

The review will not include Bipole III, even though the new dams would be useless without it. The government is not obligated to heed PUB recommendations; it can issue licences regardless of the outcome of hearings. And the public review process is only kicking in once the Hydro plan has been allowed to gain virtually unstoppable momentum.

The government news release announcing the Needs For and Alternatives To (NFAT) review made this fairly clear. Chomiak said in the November 2012 release the dams and related infrastructure “would propel the province’s economy for decades to come.” He said, “moving forward with these projects is an important decision and Manitobans need to be assured that they are in the best long-term interest of the province.”

But the purpose of a public review process should be to solicit public and expert input, not just to assure citizens their government is on the right track. The intent should be authentic democratic exchange, not a sales job.

The reason any of this matters is not only the dams would affect the economy of the province for a generation or more, but critical questions hang over Hydro’s expansion plan.

First, what are the chances the new dams will meet Hydro’s financial expectations, unlike Wuskwatim — the relatively small dam that began producing power last year — which is projected to lose money until 2022?

Secondly, how solid are Hydro’s price predictions for Keeyask ($6.2 billion), Conawapa ($10.2 billion), Bipole III ($3.3 billion), and the required additional transmission lines from the north and down to the U.S. border ($1 billion plus a yet-to-be-determined share of U.S. transmission)?

During the review of the Wuskwatim dam, Hydro said its cost estimate of $900 million came with a “90 per cent confidence level” that the final price would be within “-8 per cent to +9 per cent” of that figure. The price actually doubled — a 100 per cent overrun.

Hydro has increased contingency reserves this time, but there are no guarantees.

The third question looming over the dams is whether Hydro will be able to secure the necessary export contracts. As recently as 2011, Hydro’s plan assumed a 250-megawatt contract with Minnesota Power and a 500-MW deal with Wisconsin Public Service (WPS).

That’s 750 MW of the 2,000-plus MW the new dams would produce. Of course not all new power would be available for contracted export sales as growth in Manitoba’s energy demand is expected to use an additional 80 MW each year starting around 2021. Some power would also be sold on the spot markets.

Hydro got the 250-MW contract it wanted, contingent on both parties managing to build their portion of a cross-border transmission line. But the 500-MW deal with WPS hasn’t come through. So far, WPS has only agreed to a 100-MW deal, and the dates have been downgraded from the original 2019-2032 to 2021-29.

Beyond that, Hydro documents list a “proposed” 300-MW contract with WPS which, if finalized, would also be contingent on new transmission.

This year, Hydro has begun adding a 125-MW deal with Minnesota-based Northern States Power to the list of export contracts linked to new dams, even though previous Hydro documents made no such connection.

Including this latest and rather curious addition, Hydro has contracts for 475 MW of power worth about $4 billion. Beyond 2029 — relatively soon after the 1,485-MW Conawapa dam would come on line — it has only the 250-MW deal.

The government has said in the past the dams would only be built if sufficient long-term contracts were in place.

But bigger than the question of export demand, or dam profits or price projections, is the question of whether dams are the cheapest, greenest, most prudent option.

The purpose of the dams would be to meet the projected 1.6 per cent annual increase in domestic electricity demand (equal to about 80 MW per year). If we as a province could reduce electrical demand by that same amount annually, we wouldn’t need the dams.

This is no utopian tree-hugger’s dream; leading utilities are investing heavily in energy efficiency and conservation programs as the cheapest and greenest way to keep the lights on. These initiatives are not about lukewarm showers or living in the dark, but rather creating a finely tuned less wasteful economy — one that is geared toward the future.

Evidence from other jurisdictions, and from Hydro’s own costs for efficiency programs, strongly suggest this alternative to new dams should be seriously considered.

Manitoba Hydro will say there is no good alternative to its “preferred” plan. The job of the Public Utilities Board, and ultimately, the public, is to make their own determination about that.

Manitobans will have a chance to make their views known during the NFAT public hearings, which are expected to take place early next year. Fortunately, unlike the feds, who have made it more difficult for citizens to participate in certain public hearings, the PUB accepts written or oral presentations from “any interested persons or organizations.”

Those people who will stand up before the PUB next year to suggest alternatives to the mega-dams will not be sabotaging the future of any children; they will be participating in a vital democratic process.


Will Braun lives in Morden and works for the Interchurch Council on Hydropower.

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N-S-GNTL Open House and a tornado near Warroad!

DSC01666First, today’s Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line open house at the Community Center in Lancaster, Minnesota, just 12 miles from the Canadian border.


At that meeting, the price of electricity came up, with a couple from the area who are customers saying the price is going up and up and up.  Now that’s retail, but we know the wholesale price of electricity is down, down, down…

TREND: Down go electricity prices

There’s also a heap of information at the DOE’s EIA site, and there’s the NERC Report, the latest is 2012 Long Term Reliability Assessment which addresses the state of the electrical system, whether it can handle demand, if there are shortages or surpluses.  The extreme surpluses in the electrical capacity can be found in the reserve margin charts, most with a reserve margin of at least twice what is needed, with the exception of Texas.

Here’s another cute graph about demand growth:

And not only that, there was a tornado just 25 miles away, sited near Graceton, right after the storm went through, the internet went down in the hotel and I had to move… grrrrrrrrrrrr, but found it just a few doors down.

WILLIAMS, Minn. — A September tornado has been spotted in far northern Minnesota.

The National Weather Service says a trained spotter reported the tornado two miles northwest of Williams in Lake of the Woods County before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Lake of the Woods Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Fish says no damage or injuries are reported from the tornado.

The storm dropped hail estimated at up to 1.5 inches in parts of the county. The weather service received a report from the public of hail covering the ground about an inch deep four miles south of Graceton.

Check the geese in this photo, the tiny dots in the background — that’s just a small percentage of the geese that were flying around, and their unusual behavior, flying around and around, and flapping to fly but just staying on one place for about 20 minutes or more, in the fierce wind, that’s what alerted me to the approaching bad weather.  Once the rain started pouring, they started landing near the trees along the field.  Click on the photo for a larger version, and look at the dots just over the roofs and street lights, squint and what you think are a lot of specs of dust are the geese.




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This evening’s Open House

This evening was an open house in Thief River Falls, and tomorrow is Lancaster, Thursday is Greenbush and Roseau, Friday is Baudette:

Next time, I hope they put feet on the floor so people will know where to go — it was kind of a hike and more than a few were confused by in the door, across the lobby, into the hockey rink, around the corner, down the stairs, down some more stairs, and then down the hall a bit and to the right:








Whew… made it down to the meeting!


As the unofficial greeter, letting everyone know how to get to the meeting, and of course handing out a Flyer for Open Houses, I talked to everyone who came in, and it was well attended!  And of course, good treats!

The main thing that I learned is that they’ve “refined” the routes, meaning they’re now highly processed and there’s much less real estate at issue.  Here is their MAP PAGE.  The map is kinda weird, so you have to click on it to get the new big map, from which to select the smaller maps.

Check it out, more later… it’s been a long day.  Tomorrow will be better.

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Open House meetings begin today!

Here’s the schedule — be there or be square!

This project requires a Presidential Permit for the U.S./Canada transmission crossing the border, more on that tomorrow… it’s one more step in the process.

And while you’re at it, be sure to get familiar with what’s in the docket and subscribe so you know the minute anyone files anything!  To do that, go to and then “Search Dockets” and search for docket 12-1163.  It’s that easy.  Then look for the Subscribe column, click on anything in it and hit “subscribe” and then subscribe for all filings in the docket.

Here’s the meeting schedule:


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Hello world! It’s time for another xmsn blog!!!


Here we go!  It’s all about the “Not-So-Great Northern Transmission line.  Another transmission line for marketing bulk power eastward that’s going to steamroll landowners and our pocketbooks as ratepayers.  NO!  NO!  NO!

Minnesota Power’s version of things can be found at

And the rest of the story?  Here on!

Below are the past Not-So-Great Northern Transmission Line posts from Legalectric, and from here on in, they’ll all be on this site.

If I miss anything, please let me know, and I’ll get right to it.




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