Opponents concern over open access line in Cardinal-Hickory Creek Project

DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) -- Opponents of a long-distance, interstate transmission line are concerned that non-renewable energy will pulse through, they say, unlike the way it was marketed.

“Renewable energy and clean energy is important to ATC,” Tom Dagenais, the manager of reliability planning at American Transmission Company (ATC), said. “But we can’t discriminate against other sources of energy.”

ATC is one of the utility companies responsible for the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project. The project falls under a federal order, which requires utility companies like ATC to give services to entities, within its capacity, without discrimination. The entities can offer any kind of resource, renewable or non-renewable.

"Our concern is that its being framed as a renewable line is a distortion of what will actually happen,” Justin Vickers, a staff attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said.

A chart provided by ATC shows that currently, coal and gas make up the majority in the existing generation mix.

Dagenais said that coal, however, is no longer competitive. “Since the beginning of last year we've seen over 1,500 megawatts of coal-fired generation retire within the state Wisconsin,” he added. “That’s enough to power over a million homes.”

Dagenais attributed this trend to the nature of a free market economy as well as new public policies and tax incentives.

Another chart showed that solar energy makes up the majority of new generation proposals for the next five years. However, solar energy or any of the other renewable energies would not make up the entirety of the future generation mix. It would be added to the existing mix.

Vickers, who currently represents two Wisconsin environmental groups, said the battle against the transmission line project is not over. He said that upon seeing the final written decision from the Public Service Commission anticipated sometime this month, his clients would be interested in making an appeal.