The Kansas Corporation Commission, in a Dec. 6 order, extended until Dec. 2, 2019 the sunset term in relation to the Grain Belt Express transmission line in order to allow the commission to rule on Invenergy Transmission LLC’s anticipated application to acquire Grain Belt Express Clean Line LLC (Grain Belt).
As noted in the order, Grain Belt in July 2013 filed an application for a siting permit to build in Kansas about 370 miles of the approximately 750-mile HVDC transmission line that continues to Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana; a converter station in Ford County, Kan.; and facilities to interconnect the converter station with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).
The commission also noted that in November 2013, it issued an order finding that the Grain Belt Express line is necessary because “[w]ithout this project, hundreds of millions of economic development dollars would not be spent in Kansas, and the potential for large scale wind farm development would be lost,” and “this project will have significant short- and long-term economic development benefits for the state of Kansas.”
The commission said that after considering comments from landowners, it found that a modified proposed route is reasonable and in the public interest. The commission said that its granting of a siting permit was conditioned on Grain Belt submitting quarterly reports detailing the progress and costs of the project, and beginning construction of the Grain Belt Express Project within five years from the order’s date. If construction did not start within five years, Grain Belt would be required to submit a new application. The commission added that since the order was issued on Nov. 7, 2013, Grain Belt would need to start construction in Kansas by Nov. 7, 2018, or reapply.
Before starting construction in Kansas, the order required Grain Belt to obtain approval from the other states where the Grain Belt Express would be built.
The commission added that the Illinois courts have issued decisions requiring Grain Belt to acquire property in Illinois before it can submit a new application to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) for a certificate to build the Illinois portion of the transmission project. Grain Belt is working to acquire property in Illinois to enable it to file a new certificate application with the ICC, the commission said.
The Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) in July 2015 denied Grain Belt’s application for a certificate to build the Missouri portion of the line, the commission noted, adding that Grain Belt appealed that decision, resulting in a unanimous decision by the Missouri Supreme Court, issued in July, finding that the MPSC erred and remanding the matter back to the MPSC to determine whether the Missouri portion of the project is necessary or convenient for the public service. Once the Missouri Supreme Court issues its mandate, Grain Belt will urge the MPSC to promptly issue a certificate to build the Missouri portion of the project, the commission added.
In September, Grain Belt and Kansas regulatory staff filed a joint motion for extension of sunset term, explaining that the litigation delays in Illinois and Missouri make it unlikely that Kansas construction would begin by Nov. 7, and requesting that the sunset date be extended to Nov. 7, 2023. The commission added that the joint motion is limited to a request to extend the sunset date by five years, to allow Grain Belt an opportunity to complete the permitting process and pre-construction activities required prior to beginning construction of the project in Kansas.
The commission said that in October, it issued an order granting, for instance, an extension of the sunset provision until March 1, 2019, to allow the commission time to evaluate Grain Belt’s financial, managerial, and technical ability to complete the project.
Invenergy on Nov. 12 said that it plans to acquire all of the development assets of the Grain Belt project, pending appropriate regulatory approvals.
“Adding the Grain Belt Express to the more than 400 miles of transmission infrastructure that Invenergy has successfully developed in the United States will provide American homes and businesses with access to some of the lowest-cost renewable energy in the country,” Invenergy said in its statement, in part.
The commission said in its order that Grain Belt and staff on Nov. 21 filed a joint motion for stay of procedural schedule and extension of sunset provision, explaining that on Nov. 9, Grain Belt agreed to be purchased by Invenergy, pending commission approval of the acquisition. Grain Belt and Invenergy committed to filing the acquisition application in December.
The commission added that it would have 300 days from the date the application is filed to issue an order on the application. The commission said that therefore, it is extending the sunset term to Dec. 2, 2019; the filing deadlines from the commission’s October order are canceled.