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Texas commission rejects SWEPCO's plan for wind energy project in Oklahoma

Source: 
The Panola Watchman

The Public Utility Commission of Texas has rejected a plan by AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. to add 810 megawatts of wind energy.

While the commission rejected the proposal July 2, the full project will proceed to serve SWEPCO's customers in Arkansas and Louisiana, based on regulatory approvals previously received in those states.

"It is disappointing that our customers in East Texas and the Panhandle will not have access to this major wind project, missing the opportunity for long-term cost savings and making it more difficult for businesses, residents and communities to meet their renewable energy goals," Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "However, today's decision by the PUCT does not affect the project's full viability.

"We appreciate the approvals we received from the Arkansas Public Service Commission and the Louisiana Public Service Commission, and we look forward to bringing this low-cost renewable energy to our customers in Arkansas and Louisiana," Smoak said.

The approvals by the Arkansas Public Service and Louisiana Public Service commissions included provisions to increase the number of megawatts allocated to them if one state does not approve the proposal.

"We are grateful for the support this project received from our customers and communities in Texas and look forward to continuing to pursue renewable energy projects to serve them. It is our sincere hope that we will have another opportunity to bring our Texas customers more clean energy and cost savings," Smoak said.

SWEPCO officials sought support from area civic leaders and business people during a luncheon in January at the Pinecrest Country Club.

They discussed a plan by the Shreveport-based utility over the next 20 years to increase its use of wind energy from 9 percent to 26 percent, solar energy from 0 percent to 10 percent and natural gas from 7 percent to 19 percent while reducing reliance on coal from 83 percent to 44 percent.

SWEPCO's wind project includes the acquisition of three wind facilities in North Central Oklahoma - known as the North Central Energy Facilities - in conjunction with its sister company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma. SWEPCO will own 810 MW, or 54.5 percent, of the 1,485-MW project with an investment of $1.01 billion. SWEPCO and PSO will acquire the projects at their completion over the next two years.

In addition to the environmental benefits of wind energy, SWEPCO's Arkansas and Louisiana customers will save an estimated $2 billion over the 30-year expected life of the new facilities.

PSO received final Oklahoma Corporation Commission approval Feb. 20 of a settlement agreement in its plan to add 675 megawatts of wind energy.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the acquisition of the wind facilities by SWEPCO and PSO.

SWEPCO serves more than 536,300 customers in three states, including 231,000 in Northwest and Central Louisiana, 185,500 in Northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle and 119,800 in West Arkansas.

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