Real Electrical Reliability

Throughout the regulatory processes for PATH and other PJM power lines, power company and PJM engineers repeat claims about how these lines will “increase reliability” of the bulk long distance electrical grid.  Last winter, electricity customers in much of WV, and also in the Washington, DC area, saw firsthand how power companies have allowed their distribution lines to collapse.  As they chase after high profit, subsidized transmission lines, our local power companies have failed at the day-to-day maintenance of their own electrical systems.

It doesn’t really matter to the customer who has just lost $1000 worth of frozen meat whether the blackout was caused by problems in the distribution system or the transmission system.  A blackout is a blackout.

The WV PSC doesn’t even require AEP and Allegheny Energy to track and report basic reliability information concerning SAIFI and SAIDI standards that many other state regulators use to track power company performance.  It took one of the state’s worst blackouts in history to get the PSC to appoint a power company controlled-committee to even consider instituting standards.

We know from the 2005 Project Mountaineer Love Fest, sponsored by FERC and the coal industry, that regulators and power companies planned from the very beginning to use “improving reliability” and threats of blackouts to corral regulators into the coal industry power line slaughter pen.

Just last month, my wife and I took a major step to create real reliability for our own electrical system.  It is about generation, not transmission.  It is about short distances, not long distances.

Power companies want the bogey man of “reliability” to be something vague and scary.  For those of you who learn best from pictures, here is what reliability looks like. I have kept the photographs out of this post for my friends and neighbors using dialup because of WV’s poor broadband Internet system.

Home solar power systems are now economically feasible, and within the financial reach of most middle class West Virginians and small businesses.  Add a relatively small battery backup system, as shown in the pictures, and the critical parts of your electrical system don’t even blink when AEP or Allegheny’s systems go down.

I know of at least two WV companies that will be glad to provide a site assessment, create designs and install your solar electrical system.  These two companies are PIMBY (Power in My Backyard) in Thomas, who installed our system, and Mountain View Solar & Wind in Martinsburg.  Both of these companies know much more about real reliability than any 20 engineers at AEP/Allegheny.

You don’t have to build a huge system to create enough power to insure reliability.  All you need is a system big enough to recharge batteries when the power companies fail.  All the rest of the time, your solar panels are creating power that you sell back to the power companies.  Your system will also generate cash from renewable energy credits you can sell in surrounding states.

The WV energy credit system created by the Legislature last year, allows coal-fired power plants to capture all of WV’s “alternative” energy credits, so real WV-based home renewable systems can’t sell credits on WV markets.  Even if we can’t help our own state, neighboring states will buy our renewable energy credits.

You should act soon, because there are important federal and state tax credits that make these systems affordable.  If power company political friends regain control of Congress and/or the White House, the significant federal tax credits may disappear.