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2010-01-21

RLAT learns about CREZ

By Carol L. Smith

The Ranchers and Landowners Association of Texas held their annual board of director’s election meeting at the Silver Sage Corral Senior Activity Center on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Guest speaker Brian Bartos, manager of engineering for the Bandera Electric Cooperative (BEC), discussed the implications of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) legislation for Bandera County residents.

CREZ backstory
Bartos explained how the origins of the CREZ legislation and exactly how it will affect the delivery of electricity to this area.

In 2005, Senate Bill 20 created the CREZ, establishing and expediting the clear need and justification to obtain a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) for building new transmission lines. Prior to the CREZ, the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) planned to move the wind-generated power from West Texas to urban centers along the Interstate 35 corridor. However, there were not enough transmission lines to accommodate the electricity being generated. Also, the wind developers and the electric companies were at an impasse. Although they couldn’t agree who was going to build first, each needed the other to complete the projects.

In Bartos’ vernacular, the CREZ creation was akin to the movie, The Field of Dreams - “If you build it (the transmission lines), they will come (the wind developers).” Once legislators realized it was in the public’s interest to develop the CREZ, legislation was passed that guaranteed the utility companies would make a return on their investments.

The BEC has seen an average 3 percent annual increase in growth and Texas now leads the nation in the amount of electricity generated by wind power. To move the power out of the CREZ zones and to the end user, local utility companies must add 2,300 miles of new transmission lines at a cost of $ 4.5 billion.

Bandera County construction
In 2009, BEC found themselves, as Bartos stated, “… sitting in the cat bird seat, at the end of a transmission line at Verde Creek. That’s when we found out that we were going to be on the hook.”

He explained that the BEC would have to rebuild the Verde Creek transmission line - a total of 15 miles - running through the northern part of the county up the Verde Creek substation in Kerr County. The new line will not require any additional right-of-way (ROW) acquisition. Due to the installation of a single concrete pole holding six wires, the ROW will actually be narrower.

Estimated cost for the line is $3.5 million and the cost of the new auto transformer is $2.6 million. Due to the expansive growth in the Hill Country area - including Bandera County - the BEC engineer stated, “If we weren't mandated by the CREZ, we would have had to do it anyway.”

When asked if they were any ROW acquisitions made in Bandera County, Bartos explained that the new lines running from San Antonio up FM 1283 to the Medina Lake substation were a joint venture between the Lower Colorado River Authority and City Public Service. These lines had to be enlarged to accommodate the amount of electricity needed for the area and the BEC had to acquire an additional 20-feet' of ROW on each side of the new line.

The new transformer is now being installed at the Medina Lake substation and the lines from San Antonio are expected to be in service on Jan. 21, according to Bartos.

This will eliminate the need for any planned load shedding - aka rolling black outs. At the completion of this portion of the project, BEC personnel will construct a new transmission line from the Medina Lake substation to the Pipe Creek substation. The estimated start date for this line replacement is February with a proposed finish date of June 2010.

Good news about wind power
Bartos then explained the positives associated with utilizing the wind generated electricity, which include:
• saving consumers approximately $2 billion

• reducing by 16 percent carbon dioxide emissions

• reducing by 13percent nitrogen dioxide emissions

• saving 17 billion gallons of water since water will not be needed to cool coal or nuclear powered plants

• creating approximately $5 billion in economic development
A RLAT board member asked whether the BEC would engage in “net metering,” which means BEC would buy back or credit any unused electricity from consumers with their own windmills. Bartos replied that, with the new meters, “Yes, we can accept energy coming in.”

New RLAT board
In other business, RLAT members voted to reelect incumbent board members, John Payne, Bobby Aycock, Don Giles, Clifford Herbst, Ed Hodges, Fidel Ramirez, Jerry Snelgrove, Cathy Spinks, and George Tinsley and added to the board new members Maggie Schmacher, Jerry Baker and Jay Lewis.

Other board business discussed included participation in the Bandera County Junior Livestock Show and Sale, continued funding of college scholarships and the clay targets competition scheduled for April 24.