SWEPCO questions identity, funding of group working in Arkansas to oppose wind project

SHREVEPORT, La., March 6, 2018 – Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO), a unit of American Electric Power (AEP), today called into question advertising by an anonymous group working in Arkansas to oppose the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project.

“A group known only as Protect Our Pocketbooks – which does not reveal the names of its backers or the sources of its substantial funding – is presenting misleading information to the public, including manipulation of statements by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson,” said Brian Bond, SWEPCO Vice President of External Affairs.

Gov. Hutchinson wrote to the Arkansas Public Service Commission on Jan. 11 asking that the benefits of federal corporate tax cuts be passed on by utilities to Arkansas families and businesses. “In its latest television ad, Protect Our Pocketbooks misleadingly associates the governor’s comments about corporate federal tax cuts with the group’s campaign against Wind Catcher,” Bond said.

“The anonymous, tax-exempt opposition group claims that Arkansas gets none of the benefits of the project, which is incorrect and misleading. Arkansas will receive the benefits of generation with no fuel costs, cost savings immediately and over the life of the project, the full value of the federal Production Tax Credits available to the project, and the economic development benefits of wind turbine components being manufactured in Arkansas,” Bond said.

The $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project includes acquisition of a 2,000-megawatt wind farm under construction in the Oklahoma Panhandle and construction of a 360-mile dedicated generation tie line to the Tulsa area, where the existing electrical grid will deliver the wind energy to customers.

SWEPCO, which serves customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, will own 70 percent of the project. SWEPCO’s sister company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) will own 30 percent.

“SWEPCO has been serving Arkansas customers for more than 100 years. This anonymous group has appeared overnight, representing undisclosed interests, to oppose lower electricity costs and more renewable energy for our Arkansas customers,” Bond said. 

SWEPCO anticipates that the project will save its customers more than $4 billion over the 25-year life of the wind farm. The economic impact of the project will also include manufacturing of key components of the wind turbines in states served by SWEPCO. GE Renewable Energy, which will provide 800 of its 2.5-megawatt wind turbines for the Wind Catcher facility, anticipates that a significant number of turbine blades, towers and generator frames will be manufactured in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

Wind Catcher is part of SWEPCO’s long tradition of a diverse energy resource mix, which has included the addition of 600 megawatts of advanced-technology coal capacity at the Turk Plant in Fulton, Ark. (440 MW owned by SWEPCO) and 300 MW of natural gas capacity at the Mattison Plant in Tontitown, Ark.  

 The Wind Catcher project has been under full regulatory review in Arkansas for more than six months. SWEPCO filed its application for approval of the project in late July 2017.

After a series of negotiation sessions with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) General Staff, the Arkansas Attorney General and other parties, SWEPCO agreed to provide a number of guarantees, including a cap on construction costs, qualification for 100 percent of the federal Production Tax Credits, minimum annual production from the project, and others.

“With these guarantees, we are demonstrating our commitment and ability to deliver customer benefits from Wind Catcher,” Bond said.

The guarantees are included in a negotiated settlement agreement filed in a joint motion with the APSC Feb. 20. The agreement includes SWEPCO, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) General Staff, the Arkansas Attorney General, and Walmart Stores, Inc. and Sam’s West, Inc. By joint motion filed Feb. 20, the parties are asking Commission members to approve the project under terms of the settlement agreement. An evidentiary hearing was held March 1.

“The Wind Catcher project is tapping into one of the best wind resources in North America to bring long-term cost savings and renewable energy to our customers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas,” Bond said.

“The project also addresses the needs of many customers – including companies, cities, universities and others – who have sustainability and renewable energy goals of their own,” he said.

Wind Catcher cost savings include no fuel cost for wind, which lowers SWEPCO’s overall fuel and purchased power costs; full value of the federal Production Tax Credit, which is available for construction of new wind farm projects; and the cost-efficient delivery of the wind generation to customers through the new, dedicated power line.   

Customers will see savings primarily through a reduction in the fuel portion of their bills, beginning in 2021.

The Wind Catcher project is subject to approval by utility commissions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

SWEPCO serves 532,000 customers in western Arkansas, northwest and central Louisiana, northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle. SWEPCO’s headquarters are in Shreveport, La. News releases and other information about SWEPCO can be found at www.SWEPCO.com. SWEPCO is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP).

American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a more than 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP also operates 224,000 miles of distribution lines. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning approximately 26,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP supplies 3,200 megawatts of renewable energy to customers. AEP’s utility units operate as AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east Texas). AEP’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.


Corporate Communications
Peter Main (479) 973-2526