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Xcel's Power Problems Persist

*10 years* of continual power outages in Boulder Pointe & our effort to motivate Xcel Energy

Updates

December 2, 2008: It's Over and Resolved!

I just received this email from Xcel Energy's Michele Swanson, letting me know our issue has been resolved:

from: Swanson, Michelle M <michelle.m.swanson@xcelenergy.com>
to: Steve Borsch <sborsch@gmail.com>
date: Tue, Dec 2, 2008 at 11:10 AM
subject: Westgate Feeder
mailed-by: xcelenergy.com

Steve:

Just wanted to let you know that the Westgate feeder has been completed and was energized on December 1. I apologize for the delays in this project. It was a complex project that ended up having a number of roadblocks, but ultimately we were able to find a solution in order to get this project done.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Michelle Swanson

Manager, Community and Local Government Relations
Xcel Energy
5309 West 70th Street
Edina, MN 55439
Phone: 952 - 829 - 4504
Fax: 612 - 573 - 1724
Email: michelle.m.swanson@xcelenergy.com

May 1, 2008: Today I received a response to an email inquiry I'd sent from Xcel Energy's Roger Johnson. Not good news and, as I suspected would be the case, Johnson stated in an email today that "we will not make our target May 31 in-service date". Here's his full response:

Thank you for inquiring about the status of the feeder project we discussed last fall.  Due to a number of factors, including the complexity of the project and the number of parties involved, (external and internal), we will not make our target May 31 in-service date as previously discussed.  As you recall, this is an internally driven project that was implemented to increase capacity in the area, which will also have a secondary benefit of improving reliability in your area.

We expect at least two-thirds of this project to be complete by June 1.  We are working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, (MNDOT), on issues associated with the last one-third of the project.  Until these issues are resolved with MNDOT, we do not have a firm date to finish the entire project.  Once we have information from MNDOT, we will provide an updated completion date for you. This is a high priority project for several reasons, and we will be working diligently to complete it as soon as possible.  If you have any further questions, please contact me.

Roger W Johnson
952-829-4538

September 19, 2007: Today I received this email from an Eden Prairie resident near Valley View Road and Eden Prairie Road. You'll feel the pain of this guy as he's experienced what we here in Boulder Pointe have with power outages.

September 13, 2007: Today's MN Sun newspaper and Eden Prairie News release stories on our issue:

Resident shocked by frequent power outages
by Karla Wennestrom - EDEN PRAIRIE NEWS

EP neighborhood reels from frequent electrical outages
BY Lyn Jerde - SUN NEWSPAPERS

September 5, 2007: Just returned from a meeting between the City of Eden Prairie and Xcel Energy. In attendance was Scott Neal (City Manager), David Lindahl (EP head of economic development), myself and the folks from Xcel Energy specifically Michelle Swanson, Manager of Policy Analysis of Xcel Energy, Patrick Cline (Director, Community Relations and Michelle's boss), and Roger Swanson (didn't pass out business cards but he's responsible for the Eden Prairie infrastructure engineering).

THE PUNCHLINE
Here's the good news/bad news: the good news is that our permanent fix to our power outage problem is slated to be completed by mid-May of 2008. The bad news is that this fix is nearly 8 months away. If history is any guide, we can expect at least one major outage between now and then.

THE MEETING: A SYNOPSIS
The meeting kicked off with Ms. Swanson taking the lead explaining why each Xcel person was there and, most importantly, that there was a clear understanding on their part that there had been a "number that is more than normal" series of power outages affecting our neighborhood.

Swanson's boss, Pat Cline, then spent a few moments discussing some background of our Eden Prairie issues and other general items, explaining that Roger Johnson would get into more specifics about infrastructure and the potential for a fix.

Roger Johnson then proceeded to hand out detailed maps of the Xcel power infrastructure (which he asked I not put up on the web site for security reasons...and I actually just got done shredding them as I prefer not to have them in my possession). In these maps it showed the myriad feeders and taps that power the various areas of Eden Prairie within which Boulder Pointe exists.

There was quite a fair amount of discussion about the infrastructure with me reiterating our impression that hooking us up with the "blue" color on the map he'd provided (see Background) would obviate our problem as we'd be connected to the parts of Boulder Pointe never affected by outages. With a shrug of the shoulders Johnson then lamented his ineffective communication with me by email and for inappropriate expectation-setting.

I was emphatic that the *outcome* is what matters *not* what hookups they do. For now, we do not have clean and reliable power to our homes and this has been known and understood for some time.

PERMANENT FIX: The Westgate 76 Feeder Project
The permanent fix to our outage problems has -- as you know and has been apparent to Xcel for some time -- is that we need to be on a different feeder on the grid. There is a substantial amount of infrastructure work occurring from now until mid-May that will end up with this portion of Boulder Pointe on a new feeder akin to what others in Boulder Pointe enjoy.

The $1.2M cost for the Westgate 76 Feeder Project has been approved by the Xcel Board of Directors with design work, pulling permits and commencement of work on this project this Winter. According to Johnson, all work is scheduled to be completed by mid-May of 2008.

WHAT'S NEXT?
The pressure has to stay applied to ensure this work gets done. To ensure the commitments made today are, in fact, adhered to, Scott Neal and David Lindahl will be monitoring this work and adherence to the project timeline. I already have an event on my calendar to prompt me to reach out to the Xcel folks at the beginning of April and will email you all when works gets completed.

Of course I'd be more pleased if this work was done well before thunderstorms begin rumbling through in April, but there is apparently substation work required to be done before this new feeder project. All of this effort isn't trivial but I'm disappointed it took rabble rousing and an effective and sympathetic city manager willing to get Xcel's attention in order for us to get the service we're paying for from our power utility.

September 4, 2007: Scott Neal's assistant, Lorene McWaters, contacted me today and I'll be attending a meeting between Scott, David Lindahl (EP head of economic development), myself and Xcel Energy (specifically Michelle Swanson, Manager of Policy Analysis of Xcel Energy).

I'll update this site after our 3pm meeting on September 5th.


August 31, 2007: Scott Neal emailed today that his assistant, Lorene McWaters, will be contacting me next week as I'll be attending a meeting between the city and Xcel Energy (specifically Michelle Swanson, Manager of Policy Analysis of Xcel Energy and whomever else attends from both sides and, I assume, the business I discussed in the August 30th Update).

August 30, 2007: Steve Borsch met with Scott Neal, Eden Prairie City Manager, to discuss strategic level actions to take with Xcel Energy.

At this morning's meeting, Scott and I started off chatting about the city and the need for clean, reliable energy. He mentioned that energy issues are NOT just a problem with Boulder Pointe it is affecting others, including a large local business that has a considerably sized data center at the heart of their business.

As you may know, data centers rely on clean power (dirty power is an alternating current that includes spikes, surges or other unwanted fluctuations) and -- even though they typically have large diesel generators that provide backup power in the case of an outage -- running these have their own set of issues and add fuel and maintenance expenses to running the business.

Add to that the number of people who work from their homes (Scott mentioned a City study that identified 20% of Eden Prairie businesses are home-based) and you have a problem affecting hundreds of people and their livelihoods.

Though Neal didn't state this directly, I instantly thought that this could affect economic development if businesses are considering locating within Eden Prairie, especially if they're dependent upon 24/7 availability of energy to power their businesses.

Fortunately, we Boulder Pointe folks have a considerable advocate in Mr. Neal. He's already been instrumental in ensuring attention is given to this issue by the people at Xcel Energy (which is the only reason we were connected with those accountable as described in the area of this site called "Background").

It is clear that our primary leverage point will come through Neal and so we then discussed specific actions and, important to me Steve Borsch, he'll invite us to participate in the process of engaging Xcel Energy and a drive toward a quick and permanent resolution to our power outage problem.

ACTIONS: As we discussed strategies, it became clear that Scott has already taken action toward resolving the issue that is affecting us:

  • Has discussed this matter with Rick Rosow, our city attorney, in order to research Public Utilities Commission actions and attorney's who've had similar dealings with like issues
  • Will be talking this morning with Michelle Swanson, Manager of Policy Analysis of Xcel Energy (and someone who has been on our emails as a "CC" over time) to begin acceleration discussions toward a resolution
  • Holding talks with Eden Prairie representative, Maria Ruud, who happens to be the Vice Chair of the Energy, Finance and Policy Division in our State legislature.
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