PATH: A brief update on the power line

June 18, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

It’s been a while since we had much discussion on Coal Tattoo about power lines, or about the huge PATH project … but today’s press announcement by Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power seems like a good opportunity for a quick update.

The news release just showed up in my e-mail inbox:

American Electric Power and Allegheny Energy, Inc. today announced that new studies by independent grid operator PJM Interconnection recommend construction of the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) as the most effective solution to address numerous electric reliability concerns forecast for the Mid-Atlantic region.

It goes on:

The latest analyses, conducted as part of PJM’s 2010 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP), are consistent with previous studies since 2007 identifying PATH as the preferred solution for resolving issues on the region’s transmission grid. Based on the findings announced today, PJM is directing that PATH be placed into service by June 1, 2015, at the latest.

What’s all that mean? The last time I really checked in on all this was back in December, when the power companies were in the midst of a flurry of regulatory filings to delay or halt hearings on PATH because of a new analysis that indicated the project wasn’t needed in 2014, as they had been arguing.

Well, our friend Bill Howley at The Power Line blog had a post last week titled, “The Latest from PJM on Path,” in which he told us:

PJM Interconnection’s Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee (TEAC) released a new power point presentation yesterday with additional information on PJM’s renewed case for PATH. This new report updates a similar report that TEAC made public two weeks ago.

The new report (surprise, surprise) includes new findings that would move the “base case” need for PATH back from 2017, as predicted in the earlier report, to 2015.

And guess what the power companies say in their new press release? That’s right:

The PATH project was evaluated against six alternatives and found to be the most comprehensive solution to resolve numerous voltage-related issues and line overloads that are projected to begin in mid-2015. Among the other alternatives examined, PATH is the recommended solution that resolves the majority of the projected reliability issues within PJM’s 15-year planning period.

The power companies also report:

Taking into account a thorough regulatory review as well as the time required to complete construction of the line, the PATH companies will continue to move forward quickly with the project. The new data will be incorporated into the existing applications for regulatory approval in Maryland and West Virginia, as well as in a new application to be filed in Virginia in the third quarter.

Remember that the West Virginia Public Service Commission already delayed its hearing on the PATH portions in our state until late 2010, and scheduled a final decision to be due by Feb. 24, 2011.

In that blog post I mentioned, Bill Howley suggests that everyone will need to take a very close look at these new PJM projections, and especially at the assumptions that go into them:

There are lots of pretty maps and spreadsheets in the TEAC power point, but if their underlying assumptions are wrong, then all these pretty pictures are meaningless.

And he reminds us what independent analysts found when they looked at PJM’s previous reports about PATH, quoting grid experts George Loehr and Hyde Merrill:

In my view, the Load Deliverability procedure used by PJM comes up with Capacity Emergency Transfer Objective (CETO) values that are unnecessarily high, and seems out of synch with what the rest of the industry is doing. There are better, more systematic and technically consistent ways to determine the import capabilities required by Load Deliverability Areas (LDAs) to maintain reliability.

• Without PATH, the capability of the Mid-Atlantic LDA to import power would still be in excess of 6,000 MW. In other words, with a 6,000 MW transfer into the Mid-Atlantic area, there would be no reliability violations. Not one.

• In my opinion, NERC violations have not been established since the base case assumptions are too conservative. So, too, are the CETO/Load Deliverability procedures.

3 Responses to “PATH: A brief update on the power line”

  1. Monty says:

    It’s always best to follow the money. AEP isn’t just doing this because they want to, are they?

  2. StopPATH says:

    They’re in a big hurry, after recently receiving still yet another delay from the WVPSC, moving the decision deadline to May 16, 2011.

    What’s the hurry? They need desperately to try to get this thing approved before their case evaporates even more, before the negative PR they’ve been receiving gets even worse, and before the 51 million ratepayers in the PJM region who have been paying for PATH since 2008 find out that Paul Evanson told investors in a May earnings call that the $1.8B cost estimate needs to be “fine tuned” because it’s too “conservative”. “The real spending hasn’t even begun yet.”

    Hold on to your wallets, folks!

  3. Bill Howley says:

    The power company press release implies that there is an active application for PATH in Maryland. There is not. The MD PSC has yet to rule on whether they will accept the application that Allegheny Energy submitted. That decision is expected within the next month or two. There currently is no active application for PATH in MD.

    This is the fourth annual delay in PATH’s absolute, must-happen-or-the-world-will-end start date. PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that claims PATH is needed, can’t produce the figures to support its claims. Their deadline keeps receding into the future as the real world interferes with their plans.

    A new application at the Virginia State Corporations Commission is not a sure thing either. Last December, a combination of expert testimony by independent experts (part of which is quoted above) and an astute SCC hearing examiner forced Allegheny to withdraw its application in VA completely. Nothing has changed about the PATH project since then. Why would VA accept a new application for the same project was withdrawn less than a year before by the applicant?

    AEP and Allegheny are putting up a brave front, but the ground is shifting out from under them.

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