East Virginia’s Dominion Power Says PATH Not Needed

On June 9, 2010, Dominion Virginia Power, East Virginia’s largest electric utility, submitted a report to the Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee (TEAC) at PJM Interconnection that included four alternatives to building the PATH power line.  This report was in response to PJM’s 2010 revision of the RTEP for PATH.  Here is alternative 1 presented in the report:

By 2015

Install reactive reinforcements to resolve 2015 reactive deficiencies. ($110 M)

900 MVAR SVC at Loudoun 230 kV
900 MVAR SVC at T157 Tap 500 kV
300 MVAR static caps @ Meadow Brook 500 kV
300 MVAR static caps @ Loudoun 500 kV
300 MVAR static caps @ Doubs 500 kV
Rebuild Mt Storm – Doubs 500 kV Line to 4330 MVA (65% increase in lines current thermal capability)
($300 M)

Can be completed by 2015
Can be built for DC compatibility with little additional expense
Limited CPCN requirement
With Trail in service, longer outage windows available to minimize construction period

Install 50% series compensation at Meadow Brook end of Trail ($10 M)

Flexible option with short lead time for construction or can be deferred based on final assessment

By 2017

Rebuild Mt Storm – Pruntytown line ($200 M) cost only for Pruntytown line

Double circuit line may be required
Extend rebuild back to Harrison

Estimated Cost – $ 620 M

The other three Dominion alternatives involve building some sections of the planned PATH line, but these are much shorter than the original plan.  Note the estimated cost of Alternative 1 — about one third the current estimated (read unrealistically low) cost of PATH.

As Alternative 1 notes, all of PJM’s NERC thermal violations occur in the circuits between Pruntytown, WV and Doubs, MD.  Dominion suggests the sensible plan of simply replacing the cables (reconductoring) these existing circuits to increase their thermal capability by 65% (!!!).  No new towers, no new rights of way, no seizure of private land.

The other solutions, for correcting problems with reactive power flows, can be corrected not with new power lines, but with compensators and capacitors, just as Hyde Merrill described in his East Virginia testimony last fall.

In fact, Dominion’s Alternative 1 is essentially the alternative that Merrill proposed in his testimony — correct reactive power problems with capacitors and correct the thermal problems by repairing local circuits.  Dominion’s Alternative 1 does all this and still uses PJM’s faulty assumptions about emergency power flows.

So how did PJM’s staff respond to Dominion’s plans?  They ignored them.

Dominion is not alone in criticizing PJM plans for PATH.  Mirant, one of the largest power generators in PJM, submitted a letter to PJM which included the following paragraph:

Mirant requests that PJM and the Board consider the economic benefits of treating the components of the PATH project that are needed to address reactive limits and the components that are needed to address thermal limits as two separate projects with separate inservice dates for purposes of this year’s RTEP. This would enable costs to be incurred on an as-needed basis, which would be beneficial for consumers.

Mirant also supports Hyde Merrill’s plan to solve the reactive and thermal problems separately.  Mirant, like Dominion, contends that this method will result in better, and less expensive, results than wasting rate payers’ money on a huge new transmission line.

Why won’t PJM listen to some of its largest members?

Here’s my answer: the AEP 800 pound gorilla.  Also, no 14.3% “incentive” profits.

One more thing to note about Dominion’s Alternative 1.  See the comment about “limited CPCN requirement”?  That means that rebuilding the existing lines would not require extensive regulatory oversight at either the state or federal levels, cutting costs even further.  Less regulatory involvement also means Alternative 1 could be executed relatively quickly, something that PJM claims is a major concern.

Why won’t PJM consider Dominion’s less expensive, less damaging, quicker Alternative 1?  Refer to my answer above.