The Great Northern Transmission Line continues to attract national attention and support, ALLETE Chairman, President and CEO Al Hodnik said on Nov. 4 during the company’s 3Q16 earnings call, noting that Minnesota Power anticipates a final decision on the presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy before the end of the year.
“We look forward to updating you on this project, with construction to commence shortly after receiving the permit,” he said. “Getting this transformative North American energy project to this stage has required outstanding leadership from many individuals, both internal and external. The Great Northern initiative will provide investment and growth opportunities through the end of the decade … as Minnesota Power positions to move carbon-free hydroelectric generation from Canada.”
According to the project’s website, the Great Northern Transmission Line would carry hydropower from Manitoba Hydro to Minnesota Power’s customers. The project would consist of a 500-kV transmission line from the Minnesota-Manitoba border to the Blackberry 500-kV substation near Grand Rapids, Minn., as well as associated substation facilities and transmission system modifications, according to the site. The project schedule is driven by state and federal regulatory requirements and a required June 2020 in-service date, the site noted.
Hodnik noted that Minnesota Power continues to make significant progress on its EnergyForward strategy and overall balancing of its energy supply, adding that while the strategy encompasses reliability and sustainability, it must also take into consideration the unique nature of Minnesota Power’s customer mix.
Consistent with the EnergyForward initiative, Minnesota Power late last month announced it will retire two small coal-fired generators at its Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset, Minn., by the end of 2018, he said.
“It is the latest step in the company’s EnergyForward plan designed to answer our nation’s call for cleaner, less carbon-intense energy forms,” he said. “The retirement of these two small coal units in 2018 is an economical choice and the closure timing was made in the best interest of our customers and affected employees. This action results in cost savings for customers and lower carbon emissions, while protecting affordability and ensuring reliability.”
ALLETE also remains focused on making strategic investments in transmission and on adding renewables, as well as complementary or renewables-supporting natural gas to the fleet, he said. Minnesota Power is investigating resource alternatives for its generation mix that includes wind, solar and natural gas, along with large customer demand side management, he said.
“We believe natural gas is a necessary and supportive element for renewables as we further transform Minnesota Power’s generation mix away from coal,” he said. “Grid reliability is critical and natural gas resource generation provides a logical base to back the intermittent nature of renewable energy” sources.
ALLETE on Nov. 4 reported 3Q16 earnings of 81 cents per share on net income of $40.3m and operating revenue of $349.6m. Last year’s results were $1.23 per share on net income of $60.4m and operating revenue of $462.5m, the company said. Results for 3Q16 include an $8.8m after-tax, or 18 cents per share, adverse impact for the regulatory outcome of an Oct. 18 Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearing on the allocation of North Dakota investment tax credits, according to the company.
Results for 3Q15 included profit recognition of $12.3m after-tax, or 25 cents per share, and $135.9m of operating revenue related to the construction of a wind energy facility, which was sold to Montana-Dakota Utilities in 4Q15, the company said, adding that net income in 2015 also included acquisition costs of $0.9m, or 2 cents per share.