PATH “Facts” Are False

Over the past year or so, we have learned that much, if not most, of what AEP/Allegheny are publicly saying about PATH is just not true.  I thought we needed to stop and summarize some of the biggest power company whoppers:

PATH “fact”:

The right of way for the PATH line would be 200′ wide.

Truth:

Last winter, a number of land owners filed a complaint with the WV PSC stating that Allegheny Energy was taking more than the 150 foot wide PSC approved right of way as construction of the TrAIL line proceeded.  Here is how PSC staff attorney John Auville responded to that complaint:

The condition in this instance states the ROW will be cleared to nominal width of 150 or as deemed necessary for the safe operation of the line. There is no requirement the line only be cleared to 150 feet or to any specific width. In other words, the ROW will be as wide as it needs to be in order to ensure safe operation of this line.

Here is a link to the post I wrote last April about the width of these rights of way.  Clearly, the power companies and the WV PSC believe that “the ROW will be as wide as it needs to be” as determined by the power companies.  “As wide as it needs to be” does not equal 200 feet.

PATH “fact”:

PATH ends at the Kemptown Substation near Frederick, MD.

Truth:

In the last few weeks, there has been a number of meetings in Frederick County, MD about the Kemptown Substation at the eastern “end” of the PATH line.  Both in informal discussions with PJM engineers and in information presented to the Frederick County Board of Zoning Appeals, we have learned that in addition to the two existing 500 kV lines that would connect to the substation, and the planned 765 kV PATH line, Allegheny is allowing for two 500 kV and one 765 kV “bays” that would allow three new high voltage transmission lines to connect to the substation.  Want to see where these new transmission lines would go?  Here’s the link for the big picture.

In fact, bulk transmission lines have no “ends.”  The power companies know this.  They just aren’t telling the rest of us, because they think we are stupid.  The grid is a series of circuits, not straight lines.  PATH is just one part of a circuit that PJM is building.  There will be new lines built from the Kemptown Substation fairly soon, if Allegheny is allowed to build PATH and the Substation.

PATH “fact”:

PATH will cost $1.8 2.1 billion.

Truth:

AEP/Allegheny employees revealed last week at the FERC rate recovery meeting for PATH that they will add millions for operating and maintaining PATH to rate payers, every year, that are not included in the $2.1 billion construction “estimate.”

Saying that PATH will cost rate payers $2.1 billion is like saying that the cost of owning a house is the purchase price of the house, without counting utility bills, repairs and property taxes.

Even the “construction cost” estimate of $2.1 billion is way too low.  In July 2010, AEP/Allegheny raised the estimate by $300 million, and the project isn’t even approved by a single state PSC.  Allegheny CEO Paul Evanson has stated that the TrAIL project is way over Allegheny’s projected construction cost.

One thing is clear, PJM rate payers, including all rate payers in WV, will be paying a whole lot more than $2.1 billion for PATH.  We are already on the hook for millions of dollars of AEP/Allegheny’s PATH costs since 2008, and the power companies don’t have a single regulatory approval yet.

PATH “fact”:

PATH will reduce “congestion costs” on the PJM grid.

Truth:

Here’s what a PJM engineer recently told the East Virginia SCC in the VA PATH case:

PJM has not calculated congestion savings due to individual transmission lines nor calculated the congestion savings to any individual state.

Here’s what an Allegheny engineer stated last year in the WV PSC PATH case:

Neither AEP nor Allegheny has performed an analysis of the effect of PATH on congestion costs.

So, how can PJM or AEP/Allegheny claim that PATH will have any impact on congestion costs if they have never done the math?

Here is a recent post with links to this testimony. The post also describes how PATH is really a way of transferring the costs of PJM’s congestion from the power companies directly onto rate payers.

PATH “fact”:

PATH is an “upgrade” for an old-fashioned transmission grid.

Truth:

Recent AEP/Allegheny TV ads (which never mention AEP/Allegheny, only the PATH front companies) claim that the current transmission grid is falling apart and that PATH would “upgrade” failing transmission lines.  The plan for PATH, as described by PJM and AEP/Allegheny in their various PSC applications, does not include any decommissioning or replacement of existing high voltage transmission lines.

In fact, PATH is an addition to the existing grid, not a replacement.  The only real “upgrade” plan that involves replacing transmission lines is the plan submitted to PJM by Dominion Virginia Power.  Dominion states that its plan would cost only $620 million and does a much better job of meeting all of PJM’s requirements more quickly than PATH.  Dominion’s plan does not involve building any new transmission lines.

The fact is that, with PATH, rate payers in the PJM region would be paying for a huge increase in the power grid for no improvement in grid reliability.

PATH itself is part of the grid technology that is now obsolete.  New power generation technologies like home based solar power, offshore wind power and small scale natural gas fired power plants are the real future of our electrical grid.  PATH is just another patch on the obsolete centralized technology that was the pride of the last century.

So, are AEP/Allegheny giving us fact, or fiction?  I think the answers are pretty clear.

And who deserves the credit for finding out the truth?  Not the state PSCs and their “consumer advocates”.  Not the “professional” newspaper reporters, like the clueless Baltimore Sun blogger, whose companies happily accept AEP/Allegheny’s advertising dollars.  The facts about AEP/Allegheny’s fictions have all be uncovered by citizen intervenors and hard working, unpaid volunteers.