Does Oklahoma’s Backlash Against Big Wind Point Way for MN?

The reevaluation of wind energy in the light of its high costs and low benefits in comparison to natural gas in particular continues to spread from state to state. One of the hotbeds of the renewable reappraisal underway is down I-35 in Oklahoma, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

First the wind came sweeping down the plain, then the dollars, and now the controversy.

With ever more spiky wind turbines cropping up across its open lands, Oklahoma has just become the No. 2 state in the country for wind energy production, the American Wind Energy Association announced Tuesday. That has been a boon for local communities, but it has also come at a price for the state, which pays tens of millions of dollars a year in subsidies for wind companies. As the industry grows, so does the price tag for wind incentives.

A huge new proposed wind farm called Wind Catcher kicked off the controversy in the Sooner State. The increased scrutiny caused by the project led to a greater realization of the true costs of Big Wind’s subsidies. There’s even talk of taxing wind farms now.

The Wind Catcher case comes amid a pushback on wind incentives, galvanized by a state budget crisis and influential oil and gas interests. In the past year, Oklahoma has ended two key incentives that even wind proponents admitted were in some ways “too generous.”

“I’m hopeful that the current balance that we’ve struck between local taxation and making sure that we’re not penalizing a new technology – I’m hopeful that that balance stays in place,” says state Sen. AJ Griffin (R) of Guthrie, who says she encourages investment in wind “without giving away the farm.”

As so often turns out to be the case, the utility has cut corners to cash in on federal subsidies set to sunset eventually. At the same time, the utility want state regulators to approve a rate increase to underwrite the project that it claims customers will recoup once built. But some state officials aren’t buying Big Wind’s sales pitch anymore.

One of the strongest opponents to the project is Attorney General Mike Hunter, whose job is to protect Oklahoma consumers.

However, Mr. Hunter disputes PSO’s savings estimate. He has experience with public utility cases, having previously worked for OCC, and says the Wind Catcher project is likely to cost consumers around $320 million.

He also underscores that PSO did not follow state rules, plain and simple, and must be opposed on that basis.

“My responsibility is to the ratepayers of the state of Oklahoma and that responsibility is a statutory responsibility, it’s consistent with my oath of office, and the case that we’re putting on is based on careful investigation, thoughtful review of evidence, and the law,” Hunter tells the Monitor. “And that is my sole motivation in this matter.”

Which brings up the question: Who’s watching out for Minnesota ratepayers? Certainly not Hunter’s Minnesota counterpart Attorney General Lori Swanson.

American Experiment’s recent report, Minnesota Energy Policy: The High Cost of Failure, documented the fact that at least $15 billion in Minnesota has been spent on wind turbines and transmission lines without achieving environmentalists’ goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.But Minnesota ratepayers’ bills have soared at the same time. In fact, Minnesotans spent more than the national average on their power bills for the first time in 2017, wiping out what used to be an 18 to 20 percent price advantage before the imposition of green energy mandates.

Where’s Minnesota’s Mike Hunter to take a stand against Big Wind and protect state ratepayers?