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TEXAS PLANT STILL IN THE PIPELINE

New World Power's 40 MW Texas wind plant at Big Springs is to be one of the largest proposed in America. New World won the contract a year ago, but so far the most certain fact about the project is that delay is inevitable.

The fate of New World Power's 40 MW Texas wind plant -- one of the largest proposed in America -- remains undecided even after intense lobbying by renewables and consumer advocates in late August. The outcome for the project to be built by New World for TU Electric using German Enercon turbines, may not be decided until later this autumn. By late September, it was only clear that a delay was inevitable. New World had won the contract a year ago after a competitive solicitation that drew a field of almost 40 bids. TU, based in Dallas, is the state's largest utility.

In late August Texas regulators ordered TU to reissue a competitive solicitation for the 340 MW already recommended for a set-aside for wind -- in addition to the 40 MW project -- under its long term "integrated resource plan." The new solicitation would be for all technologies as well as demand side proposals, says TU's Kathi Miller.

A shock-wave went through the wind community earlier in August when regulators nixed the 40 MW wind project, to be sited at Big Springs and due on line as soon as 1996. But by the end of the month, partly because of intense political pressure, Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulators said they would re-consider it separately if the utility's 30-member "service area advisory group" also agrees there should still be a set aside for renewables. If so the project would proceed as a "pioneer preference."

Since the advisory group was once pivotal in approving the 340 MW of recommended wind, it is the PUC itself that is seen as the main potential hurdle. When the TU plan was first approved, a year ago, the commission members were all Democrats and included the intensely pro-renewables Karl Rabago. Now only one is a Democrat, and the Republican chairman, Pat Wood, is against all set asides. Even so, the third member has suggested it is only fair New World should be allowed to continue. "We're still very optimistic," says Paul Ruiz, the Austin-based attorney representing New World.

The citizens advisory group has two months to issue its decision on whether the wind project should proceed, even though the remaining 340 MW of planned wind has been halted. The Big Springs project was to be under construction by the end of 1995.

One possible outcome of these unexpected changes is the introduction of green pricing. On September 22, Wood, a former counsel for the Federal Electricity Regulatory Commission, issued a "separate concurrence." It was Wood who, on August 23, opposed all set asides for specific sources of energy and blocked pre-approval of the proposed TU contract.

Wood is suggesting green pricing as a "preferable option" and suggests the matter is sent to an administrative law judge. He had previously issued his own proposal for utility restructuring, suggesting they "unbundle" their activities and also allow access to transmission lines at prices they pay themselves. Earlier in the year, the Texas legislature had passed a law directing regulators to adopt rules for wholesale transmission services.

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