CONCORD Three weeks ahead of a return visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state, Texas Gov. Rick Perry tag teamed with New Hampshire Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn Tuesday to accuse Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and President Barack Obama of being soft on illegal immigration.
Perry, who is eyeing a second run for President, brushed aside a question about 2016 and said his conference call with Horn was about 2014.
When a reporter suggested that his 2012 foray into presidential politics ended in failure and left many of his supporters feeling embarrassed, Perry said, Talk about being embarrassed.
I would be embarrassed if I were in New Hampshire and I had a United States senator who was so with the President on this issue that they re putting the citizens in jeopardy by not securing the border. That to me is the most embarrassing issue that s out there.
The Perry call came two days ahead of the second visit to the state in just more than a month by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is also viewed as a likely GOP presidential contender when the 2016 campaign ramps up next year.
The two seem to have become involved in a rivalry over New York State GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino.
After Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, said recently Astorino s bid against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a lost cause. Perry then publicly backed Asotorino and reportedly tweeted a photo of himself and Astorino from a recent RGA event in Aspen, Colo.
Perry s call with Horn also came a day after U.S.
Senate candidate Scott Brown unveiled a television ad accusing Shaheen of supporting immigration policies that have created the crisis on the Texas border. Today, Brown s campaign followed up the TV ad with a similar radio ad2.
The timing of the Perry call and the Brown ad prompted state Democratic Party Raymond Buckley to question, via a Twitter post, if there has been coordination between the NHGOP, which hosted the Perry call, and the Brown campaign.
Perry, for his part, said he was not getting involved in the Republican Senate primary that pits Brown against former Sen. Bob Smith and former state Sen.
This (border security issue])is clearly about the lack of leadership that we ve had out of Washington, D.C. over the course of the last four or five years, said Perry. What we re seeing now is that people in this country are truly concerned about the lack of securing this border.
This is one of the top issues facing this country, Perry said.
We have brought to the attention of this administration this issue over the course of the last four or five years. We ve been really disappointed at the lack engagement.
Perry last week sent 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to try to quell the massive influx of illegal immigrants, many of them children.
After meeting with the President, he said, it s clear that he s not going to act unilaterally. The issue for us is really one about the clear criminal activity by those individuals coming across the border.
A substantial number of the people coming across the border are committing crimes in the state of Texas.
Perry added, It goes right to the point of why individuals like Jeanne Shaheen have not voted to support securing the border. Shaheen has voted with Barack Obama 99 percent of the time. People in all states would like to see a United States Senator engaged in securing the border.
You cannot have national security if you don t have border security.
Horn said, After six years in office, Senator Shaheen and President Obama have failed to secure our borders.
The senator has opposed commonsense border security measures and voted to block sending additional National Guard troops to our border as far back as 2010.
Horn also called her a loyal foot soldier for the Obama White House.
Democratic chair Buckley tied Perry s recent controversial comments about gay Americans I may have the genetic coding that I m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way to Scott Brown.
Buckley said that Perry was giving what amounted to a de facto endorsement to Brown and said that Brown was in effect hosting the conference call, although the call was actually hosted by the NHGOP. Many, including Brown primary rival Smith, have accused the party and the Brown campaign of coordinating their activities despite the fact that is a primary campaign underway.
Rick Perry s brand of discrimination isn t welcome in New Hampshire, Buckley said. This is the latest in a string of embarrassing and disastrous decisions made by a badly flailing Brown campaign.
Accepting Rick Perry s endorsement and then touting it in front of members of the New Hampshire media is truly disturbing given Perry s consistent anti-LGBT record, said Buckley.
He said that Brown has linked himself with Perry, which should really spur families across the state to ask themselves whether this Beacon Hill politician has any sense of New Hampshire at all.
(Our earlier report follows.)
Tuesday morning, July 29:
CONCORD In a move with laced with ramifications not only for this year s mid-term election, but also possibly for the 2016 first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Texas Gov.
Rick Perry later today will weigh in on the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire for the second time in less than week.
Perry, who is seriously considering a second run for the White House, will join state Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn on a media conference fall to discuss, the NHGOP says, the failed Obama-Shaheen border security policies.
Perry appeared last week on WGIR-AM radio and told New Hampshire Today program host Jack Heath he was not surprised that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen stopped short of criticizing President Barack Obama for not going to the border to observe the crisis there when he recently went to Texas for fund-raisers.
She votes with President Obama 99 percent of the time, Perry said on the radio station.
If (Granite Staters) like what they see coming out of the White House, then Senator Shaheen is who they need to vote for.
Perry s participation in the call comes just more than a week after he ordered the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to his state s border with Mexico to address the influx of illegal immigrants, most of them children.
There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government s failure to secure our border, he said in Austin last week.
Perry is scheduled to visit New Hampshire on Aug.
22 for meetings with political and business leaders as he considers another presidential run in 2016.
A group of Granite State Republicans visited Perry in Austin in May as he had been traveling the country touting Texas success in attracting business, some from other states, and talking about his failed 2012 presidential bid as a humbling experience.
The timing for Perry s telephone foray into the state today is interesting.
He will be on the media call two days before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another possible presidential contender, visits the state for the second time in just more than a month this time for a fund-raiser for the NHGOP. Christie is also scheduled to campaign with candidate for governor Walt Havenstein, as he did back on June 20.
Also, the Perry conference call curiously takes place the day after Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown began focusing on immigration and border security in a new television ad becoming the first Senate candidate in the country to release an ad on the issue, his campaign says.
In the ad, Brown says, Thanks to the pro-amnesty policies of President Obama and Senator Shaheen, we have an immigration crisis on our hands.
He calls for securing the border once and for all.
The state Democratic Party said Brown s new ad reeks of desperation and said both Shaheen and Republican Sen.
Kelly Ayotte supported legislation calling for comprehensive immigration reform while increasing border security.
Xcel CEO Ben Fowke. (Image via YouTube)
By Rod Kuckro
Xcel Energy Inc. Chief Executive Officer Ben Fowke may have found the sweet spot as the leader of one of the nation s largest utility holding companies.
It s not that his four regulated utilities with operations in eight states aren t challenged by the multiple trends shaking up the electricity industry across the U.S. They certainly are.
It s that Fowke, 56, views the challenges more as opportunities as he navigates a careful course toward a less carbon-intensive future.
And it doesn t hurt that stakeholders from Wall Street to the environmental community have offered kudos on his stewardship since he took the helm from longtime CEO Dick Kelly nearly three years ago.
Xcel s creditworthiness is among the best in the industry as judged by ratings agencies Standard & Poor s and Moody s Investors Service, both of which credit its financial strength to a conservative management strategy.
Xcel s rating reflects its straightforward, low-business-risk profile as a sizable owner of rate-regulated utilities, Moody s Senior Vice President Mihoko Manabe said in January when explaining an upgrade of Xcel s debt.
I give Xcel high marks on leadership on wind power, demand management and clean energy transmission, said Michael Noble, the executive director of Minnesota clean energy advocate Fresh Energy.
But, Xcel is stuck in neutral on rooftop solar, demand response in wholesale markets, electric vehicles and distribution system innovation, he added.
Ben s got a lot pressures on him, but he knows where he wants to end up, Noble said.
Xcel collected more kudos Thursday, when the sustainable investors group Ceres issued its first scorecard on electric utilities renewable energy and energy efficiency performance. Xcel ranked first out of 32 utilities, with 21 percent of its 2012 retail sales attributed to renewables.
Fowke sat down with EnergyWire recently in his Minneapolis conference room to talk about some of those opportunities, including controlling greenhouse gas emissions, balancing renewables on the grid, security, reshaping his workforce and the luxury of doing business in regulated jurisdictions.
Xcel s four vertically integrated utilities operate in the Midwest (Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin), Southwest (New Mexico and Texas) and Colorado. They serve approximately 5.3 million electricity and natural gas customers and operate in two of the less troubled regional transmission organizations: the Midcontinent Independent System Operator and the Southwest Power Pool.
Taken together, they make up the largest utility play between the Mississippi River and California with a diversified power supply mix dominated by coal (46 percent) but that also includes more than 5,000 megawatts of wind power, making it the nation s leading utility in that category.
Xcel has been gradually reducing its coal-fired generation in anticipation of U.S.
EPA s recently issued proposed rule to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Fowke wants EPA to ensure that companies like his get credit for early action from 2005 to 2012, when it replaced coal plants with natural gas units and invested in energy efficiency.
Listen, we have already reduced, here in Minnesota and actually across all of our jurisdictions we ve reduced our carbon footprint by more than 20 percent since 2005. We ve done all the right things, and in fact, we believe we ll reduce carbon by 30 percent by 2020, Fowke said.
As other utility CEOs have recently, he expressed confidence in EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy as the rule gets shaped.
We have been planning for this day for a while, so I think to have to almost start from scratch would be very disappointing.
But I also think the administrator is very pragmatic. She s not an outsider. She s very interested in rules that are going to be legally defensible, and she wants to build consensus, Fowke said.
Asked why there is a disconnect between some politicians and industry trade groups who excoriate the EPA rule and how he and many of his peers are approaching it, Fowke said, I think that s because our industry has a track record of if you give us enough time and the rules are sensible and fair to customers, we can make them work.
I m concerned about getting to that cleaner state but making sure that we do it in a way that is cost-effective for our customers.
We are in the middle of a major infrastructure refresh here at Xcel Energy, and I think I speak for the industry as well, you don t want to pile on costs. So you have to give us the value of time to transition.
That s a challenge, but the opportunity and I m speaking for myself now if not for my colleagues is that with natural gas prices where they are today and forecasted to be, we can move more to natural gas. We at Xcel Energy, we ve been the No.
1 wind provider for a decade now, renewables are getting increasingly more affordable and on parity with fossil.
The nation also has to address its nuclear power plant fleet, he said. That s going to be essential to any kind of real carbon strides we make in the future, and of course if we go backwards, that is just going to raise the bar that much more, he said. Xcel operates three nuclear units at two sites, both in Minnesota.
Fowke dismissed as very, very hard the notion that states could collaborate on a plan to meet EPA rules or that an RTO such as MISO could play a role in coordination.
Fundamentally, I think each state, at least initially, has got to develop their own plans; and as you know there s a lot of disparity between the targets that each state has.
So we have these opportunities to start moving towards a cleaner, less-intensive carbon future and not hurt the economic pocketbooks of our customers, but we ve got to do it in a fair, equitable and practical manner, Fowke said, adding, But we re a long way from the final rules and if you look at the history of proposal versus final they can deviate quite significantly.
Renewables in the mix; wind trumps solar for now
Fowke is bullish on Xcel s investments to date in wind power and says he would continue to invest even if subsidies such as the production tax credit are allowed to expire and the price of the unsubsidized electricity competes with natural gas generation, where in many places he says it is absolutely competitive.
Most of the 5,080 MW on Xcel s systems is contracted for through power purchase agreements. The company owns just three wind farms with 327 MW of capacity. But it plans to add 1,900 MW more to its systems by 2016.
Could we continue on?
Yeah, we could continue on, because I have been nothing but impressed in the improvements with the wind technology. Six, seven years ago, we had wind turbine capacity factors of 35 percent; now you re talking about capacity factors of over 50 percent.
So wind is seeing some, if not breakthroughs, some real significant improvements in cost. The PTC, obviously, is helpful in buying that down.
I think we would advocate that at some point it does need to transition out, maybe similar to the investment tax credit, you know, it s going to drop down to 10 percent, but then it s permanent, maybe there is a compromise like that, he said.
When it comes to solar power, Fowke is more circumspect, particularly about the effect of distributed generation on the cost of maintaining and operating the transmission grid.
Xcel s investment in solar is modest. At the end of 2012, Xcel had 266 MW of solar power on its system, including 129 MW of customer-sited solar.
To go further and satisfy growing customer demands for the choice of having photovoltaic panels on their roofs will require getting the rules right, Fowke said.
Crafting those rules is something the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), representing investor-owned utilities like Xcel, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are working on. The parties earlier this year expressed their intention to support new state-level rate regimes on practices such as net metering that allow continuing expansion of solar power while keeping utilities financially whole and able to maintain the grid (EnergyWire2, Feb.
The EEI-NRDC agreement was a recognition that the grid is fundamental to our security of and reliability of our energy future. The grid is a great bargain today, it s absolutely a phenomenal bargain, and to replicate it independently, to truly get off the grid is at the residential level, is probably if you leased the equipment and everything else, would probably be in the $250- to $400-a-month range, Fowke said. An expense in that range would far exceed the national average monthly residential electricity bill, according to U.S.
Energy Information Administration data.
That would be if you decided that you were going to completely get off the grid, not just put rooftop panels, but get voltage regulation, get the power you need to start up your air conditioner, you know, the stability, it would be extremely expensive to replicate. So let s not shortchange the grid, Fowke said.
But unless you re completely disconnecting from the grid, you need to have that grid there. You re using it just as much as somebody that is a more traditional customer.
In fact, you re using it more because you re importing, exporting and you re asking the grid to do a lot of things, he said.
We still need that grid, and somebody needs to pay for it, and our rate design really hasn t evolved as quickly as the technology.
Inevitably some customers are going to want to do more on their own. They re going want to have some on-site generation and it s not just renewables, it could be self-generation, the other options that are coming available there, he said. We increasingly have to incorporate distributed generation and other alternative forms of generation into our long-term planning mix.
Fowke believes that customers are willing to pay a little bit more to be greener, but I don t think they d be willing to pay a lot more.
While some customers might be willing to pay anything to be green, for most, 5 percent to 10 percent more is where you re probably going to get some pretty good acceptance. I think over 10, I bet you is probably a good break point.
Security is important, but there s a risk-reward to everything
While Fowke is committed to participating in industry efforts to secure utility assets from the threats of physical and cyberattacks, he wants guidelines on those efforts to be pragmatic and not overly prescriptive.
On the day of the interview, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a rule that would require owners and operators of the bulk power system to identify critical facilities, as well as threats to and vulnerabilities of those facilities, and to create a security plan to protect against and mitigate physical attacks on that infrastructure (Greenwire3, July 17).
That same week, the nation s utility regulators, at their annual meeting, passed a resolution urging that standards be written with an eye on the cost associated with their implementation.
We have to be very, very diligent, but there s a risk-reward to everything, Fowke said, noting that providing security is expensive, but the threat of not doing it is very expensive too.
You re never going to spend enough money to absolutely prevent it; you have to spend the right amount of money in a pragmatic way to avoid as much risk as economically possible and let people know what that price tag is and make sure they understand they re willing to pay for it. But you can take it to extremes.
I mean there are limits to what we can do. Frankly, at what point do we need an army?
Fowke is especially optimistic about the benefits of a relatively new software solution crafted by federal researchers that links utility networks with national security databases to guard against cyberattacks. There are plans to roll that across the entire industry.
It gives you real-time understanding of what s happening across the whole space. So if you see it coming, you can draw up the bridges, basically, and keep it from happening.
No longer a fuddy-duddy industry
Fowke is acutely attuned to the transformation occurring in his utility workforce, where, like elsewhere across the industry, companies are moving from basically a baby boomer to a millennial-type generation.
Gone are the days of a 30-year veteran being the norm at a utility, Fowke said. I think we re getting some really exciting talent attracted to our industry because they see that, hey, this is an industry that s changing, this is an industry that s in the newspaper, it s not kind of an old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy industry.
There s plenty of opportunities as that workforce turns over.
So challenge-opportunities, you know we started with that, I think the workforce turnover is obviously a huge challenge because we are a complicated business, tremendous institutional knowledge could walk out the door, so we ve got to figure out how we capture that, simplify processes.
Another demand of a younger workforce as with a new generation of customers is the need to communicate. The millennials were raised with connectivity and so they re very connected, and in this day and age, you have to communicate, Fowke said.
In the past, I think utilities have been pretty humble do the job, don t talk about it, your efforts speak for themselves.
You still have to do the job, but we have to talk about it. We have to let people understand more what their choices are, what we re trying to accomplish.
So I think the new breed of CEO communicates far more outside and both internally. The new generation wants a lot more feedback, they demand it, Fowke said.
One example of that feedback is Fowke s use of Yammer, an enterprise social network, to host quarterly Yam Jams with Xcel s 11,000 employees. That s just kind of the ante in today s world.
Challenges remain on the horizon
Xcel is more than a bit fortunate that it operates traditional utilities in regulated jurisdictions, where it has no exposure to the kind of price issues afflicting merchant generators and those exposed to capacity markets.
I think there s a lot of investor preference to see a good piece of your business in the regulated versus the merchant space these days, given the depressed prices that you ve mentioned, Fowke said.
While the RTOs are very efficient at what they do dispatching generation on a variable basis, improving reliability you don t have to carry quite the reserve margins with a larger footprint, and streamlining and making transmission pathways more efficient and better planned, he said.
But RTOS are not in the position to design market pricing to encourage capacity investment.
Each utility should decide on how to plan for its reserve margins by working with state regulators and stakeholders and then coordinate with the RTO. We re not facing some of the challenges where I think you re trying to put a round peg in a square hole.
Being in regulated states has other advantages, such as helping to support Xcel s nuclear fleet. We re feeling the same kind of cost pressures that everybody else is, but we have the luxury of being in regulation, Fowke said.
In the next year, Fowke hopes to establish a transco, which would help capture returns from its interstate grid.
We are the largest developer of 345-kilovolt transmission lines in the country, Fowke said, and a transco will allow Xcel flexibility to collaborate, at a lower cost of capital, on projects with municipalities, other investor-owned utilities and rural cooperatives.
In almost all of its states, Xcel is this year pursuing rate cases to recover the cost of billions of dollars in spending on transmission, generation and emission controls.
Every state has their own unique view, Fowke said.
If regulators balk at the returns Xcel wants, it could slow the company s business plan, he said.
Well, we re making decisions today that we re going to live with for 20 or 30 years; it s kind of the nature of our business, Fowke said.
Xcel is slated to report its second-quarter earnings Thursday morning.
In my June post about price reductions on Kohala Coast oceanfront homes1, I wrote that my pick for 49 Black Sand Beach at Mauna Lani Resort was the home on Lot 29 (MLS# 2731952), then listed for almost $4.2 million. Since then the price was reduced $200,000 to $3,998,500 and after viewing it again, I like it even more
The Amenities of 49 Black Sand Beach at Mauna Lani Resort
It is always best to start at the wide end of the funnel, so before telling you what s special about the home that s my top pick, let s figure out whether this is the right location for you. I will assume that you already know how Mauna Lani Resort compares with the Kohala Coast alternatives (Waikoloa Beach Resort and Mauna Kea Resort) and you prefer the Kohala Coast to the communities closer to Kailua Kona (Hualalai, Kukio, and Kohanaiki).
You want a single family home.
You want ocean view. In fact, you want direct beach access. That narrows your choices to 49 Black Sand Beach and Pauoa Beach. (If you need an overview of Mauna Lani, first read this Mauna Lani Resort Residential Guide4 written by my partner, Pam Deery.) Whereas all owners at Mauna Lani Resort can frequent the Beach Club, these two gated communities have their own private beachfront amenities, complete with concierge service.
And when I say gated, for these two communities that means a security guard in a gatehouse.
49 Black Sand Beach owner s pool within steps to the beach, exercise room, or tennis courts
Of course there is no such thing as a private beach in Hawai i, but right next to this secluded black sand beach owners have a club with kayak storage, lap pool, workout room, sauna, tennis court and wine storage for when you re finished getting your exercise.
Things to Like About My 49 Black Sand Beach Home Pick
One of the great things about my job is I get to spend time in exquisite homes in fabulous settings. On the other hand, the more time one spends in these exclusive resorts, the more one realizes that perhaps the majority of homes are built on spec or commissioned by an owner, but built around some accepted common denominator of currently fashionable floor plan and finishes.
The formula isn t a bad thing. It fits the sunny weather ocean view indoor-outdoor lifestyle and the accepted vocabulary of Hawaiian resort style design and decor, which in many ways is smart for resale.
The relatively rarer homes that were thoughtfully designed to meet a specific family s needs, or that reflect a unique vision, are the ones that catch my attention.
That s the case with my current pick at 49 Black Sand Beach. Before you even get into the home, you notice the very large garage. I m stealing this idea some day.
Part of the garage is built with doors on either end, so you can drive through and unhitch your boat without having to back it in. (Above the garage is a separate living quarters for the nanny or bodyguard).
Drive through boat garage makes parking easy
The indoor area is designed to create living spaces that balance separation of activities with a visual flow. Rooms are also oriented in a way to capture outdoor views from each without sacrificing privacy. I also like the extended lawn beyond the pool, enough for children s games or bocce.
Looking back from pool at first lanai, living room, dining room, and kitchen multiple seating areas
What some buyers will object to in this home is the second-floor master suite, which includes bedroom, bath, and office.
Single-story living is a necessity for some buyers and a strong preference for many more.
For the owner of this home, the choice was made for privacy and even better ocean views. There is a junior master suite on one side of the main level, well separated from the other two bedrooms, that may make this home work especially well for extended families who travel together.
Pricing is attractive at just under $4 million, whether your metric is $/sq. ft., or just looking at the prices of the homes on either side, both of which sold in the past four years for over $5 million.
If Mauna Lani Resort is Not Your Choice
I realize this blog post is getting a bit lengthy and I still have a lot to say about Mauna Kea Resort.
So I ll leave that for a Part 2 on Kohala Coast Resort single family homes under $4 million.
A hui hou,
About Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)
I believe in the power of place and I believe in the power of the written word and the stories we tell. Those are good reasons I found my place on the Island of Hawaii, and they are also reasons why I blog, says Beth Thoma Robinson R(B). Why Hawaii?
Why the Big Island? Which lifestyle and location? Which is the best way to buy or sell my Hawaii home?
How do I bring over my horse? Being a real estate specialist in the districts of North and South Kohala on the Big Island is a wonderful challenge for someone with an analytical mind and a love of the outdoors. Beth might be found sitting open house and watching whales frolic from an oceanfront resort listing one day, and driving prospective buyers off-road across a large ranch acreage with views of snow-capped Mauna Kea the next.
She represents both buyers and sellers of first-class Big Island properties, from the Kohala Coast resorts to upcountry ranches and horse properties.
- ^ price reductions on Kohala Coast oceanfront homes (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ MLS# 273195 (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ MLS# 273195 (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Mauna Lani Resort Residential Guide (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ [email protected] (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ 273195 (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ 49 Black Sand Beach (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Beachfront (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Big Island (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ For Sale (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Hawaii (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Homes (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Luxury (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Mauna Kea Fairways (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Mauna Kea Resort (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Mauna Lani Resort (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Pauoa Beach (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Pool (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Blog (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Email (www.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Website (beth.hawaiilife.com)
- ^ Twitter (www.twitter.com)