AEP pushes ahead with $2 billion wind project despite Texas rejection


Undaunted by a legal ruling in Texas, American Electric Power Company Inc. says it will continue investing in renewable energy in the region according to Columbus Business First, a newspaper located in Columbus, Ohio where AEP is headquartered.

On July 2, the Public Utility Commission of Texas denied a request by AEP affiliate Southwestern Electric Power Co. to use its Texas customers’ rates to finance the acquisition of a giant wind farm complex in Oklahoma – a deal valued at $2 billion.

But AEP said it would move forward with buying the farm anyway after it gained approvals in three other states.

Developer Invenergy is building the wind farms, which should provide 5.7 million megawatt hours of energy a year when they’re completed this year and early next year. The Texas portion would have been about 21% of the project – 309 megawatts of the 1,485 megawatts.

Now, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma will finance a larger share and receive more of the power.

“We are disappointed that our SWEPCO customers in Texas will not be able to benefit from the low-cost wind energy the North Central projects will provide,” AEP CEO Nick Akins said in a statement. “The regulatory approvals we have received in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will allow us to move ahead with the North Central wind projects at full scale.”

AEP says that the three wind farms, which are now nearing completion in north-central Oklahoma, will save customers $3 billion over 30 years. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the acquisitions in February. The other states already have approved the deal.

The three-member Texas commission said the project didn’t lay out clear enough benefits to consumers to justify their up-front investment. While some big companies have championed renewable energy, the farm had been opposed by major Texas consumer groups.

“Consumers … are looking for renewables to provide them service so it makes this difficult, but how this has been laid out is not something that I can go with,” said DeAnn Walker, the commission’s chair, at the hearing.

AEP has been re-allocating its energy generation investments over the years, and has plans to acquire 8,000 megawatts of wind and solar energy generation and 1,600 megawatts of natural gas generation between 2020 and 2030.

In 2018, the Texas commission denied AEP’s request to use ratepayer funds to build a $4.5 billion, 2,000-megawatt wind farm – the Wind Catcher.

AEP, which serves 5.4 million customers in 11 states, said it has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 59% since 2000.

Source: Columbus Business First