SWEPCO questions identity, funding of group working in Louisiana 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 Louisiana 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,” said Brian Bond, SWEPCO Vice President of External Affairs.

“The anonymous, tax-exempt opposition group claims that Louisiana gets none of the benefits of the project, which is incorrect and misleading. Louisiana 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 Louisiana,” Bond said.

“SWEPCO has been serving Louisiana 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 Louisiana customers,” 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 Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, will own 70 percent of the project. SWEPCO’s sister company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), will own 30 percent.

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 Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

“Wind Catcher will further diversify SWEPCO’s resource mix,” Bond said. “This long-term strategy of resource diversity, which also included the addition of 508 megawatts of high-efficiency, combined-cycle natural gas capacity at the J. Lamar Stall Unit in Shreveport in 2010, has allowed us to continue delivering affordable and reliable power to customers.”

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

In response to concerns about the project, SWEPCO has presented performance guarantees including a cap on construction costs, qualification for 100 percent of the federal Production Tax Credit, and annual minimum kilowatt-hour production from the project.

“With these performance guarantees, we’re demonstrating our commitment and ability to deliver customer benefits with Wind Catcher,” Bond said.

The guarantees are also included in a negotiated settlement agreement filed in a joint motion with the Arkansas Public Service Commission on 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 the joint motion, 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 Louisiana, Arkansas 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.

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