If another opportunity to purchase wind-generated power comes Hannibal's way, the Board of Public Works will have the support of the City Council to enter into negotiations.

If another opportunity to purchase wind-generated power comes Hannibal’s way, the Board of Public Works will have the support of the City Council to enter into negotiations.

During Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council a resolution was approved 6-0 (Councilman Jamie Locke was absent) that authorizes the BPW to negotiate with the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC). MJMEUC in early June announced a contract with Clean Line Energy Partners (CLEP) for up to 200 MW of DC transmission service.

The Council’s action came five months after a representative of CLEP, Mark Lawlor, Clean Line’s director of development, outlined the proposed Grain Belt Express Clean Line project.

Despite asking numerous questions during the Feb. 2 meeting, the Council took no action regarding the proposed project.

Sponsoring Tuesday night’s resolution was Second Ward Councilman Mike Dobson. He noted in a letter to the city manager, mayor and remainder of the Council that several other cities were already signing on to receive power, if it becomes available, at costs that are around half or less than what the BPW rates are now and for terms up to 25 years.

“There are potential savings that potentially could be passed onto residential consumers,” Dobson wrote. “There are also potential benefits to several of our local businesses in the fact that they could advertise that their products were made with renewable resources or ‘clean energy.’”

While acknowledging the opposition for the Grain Belt project that exists in Ralls County, Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Knickerbocker said if the Council does not take the opportunity to secure a “lower power rate for citizens we’re not doing our job.”

During Wednesday morning’s meeting of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council (NEMOEDC), Bob Stevenson, general manager of the BPW, said the Council’s action would “allow us to be more aggressive in negotiations” — although the BPW doesn’t require the Council’s blessing to enter into power negotiations.

Stevenson said if the city is able to buy into the wind power opportunity “it could be a game changer” in terms of what the city would be paying for roughly 40 percent of its electrical needs.

George Walley, executive director of the NEMOEDC, added that if the city could pull off an agreement and secure some of the Grain Belt power, it would change the city’s “competitiveness” when matched up with other communities for plant expansions and relocations.

During Tuesday’s BPW meeting, a letter from John Grotzinger of the MPUA (Missouri Public Utility Alliance) was shared. While it did not include a contract offer to join the cities already on board for Grain Belt power, it did say it needs to know soon how much wind-power energy is being sought from interested communities.

Earlier this year the BPW was in talks with CLEP regarding two opportunities. One gave the BPW a shot at investing in the infrastructure of a planned substation in Ralls County. Hannibal was also given the chance to buy electricity for as little as 2 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), which Stevenson estimated would have meant a cash savings of about $2 million annually or about 15 percent of the city’s wholesale energy bill for a 25-year period after Grain Belt construction was completed.

Instead of acting, the BPW hesitated and in February announced that discussions were being “tabled” with CLEP while it “observed developments” between CLEP and other municipal utilities around the state.

With Hannibal taking a wait-and-see approach, CLEP went in a new direction in its efforts to line up customers in the Show-Me State before going back before the Missouri Public Service Commission. First, CLEP took its offer to Hannibal off the table in May, according to Stevenson at the BPW Board’s June 15 meeting. Next, CLEP struck a deal with the MJMEUC, which represents municipal utilities that pool their resources to buy power, for up to 200 megawatts of transmission space on the Grain Belt Express line.

Grain Belt Express still needs approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission before it can construct a DC transmission line through the northern part of the state. Missouri is the only state in the proposed path not to approve the project.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com