PJM Tries to Make Dominion’s No PATH Alternative Go Away

We have been following developments with Dominion Virginia Power’s proposal to solve all the problems that PJM Interconnection thinks it has (but doesn’t really) with a project that would eliminate the need for PATH.  A description of Dominion’s proposal is here.

In its recent order concerning PATH’s new application in East Virginia, the East Virginia State Corporations Commission (SCC) stated that state law and FERC policy granting “first refusal” to local utilities to solve transmission problems in their own areas meant that Dominion’s proposal may have higher priority than PATH, from the SCC’s point of view.

Two documents have recently been posted on the PJM Web site that indicate how PJM is responding to the challenges from East Virginia.  PJM wants to use flimflam to make Dominion’s non-PATH proposal go away.

The first document, here, appears to be a list of problems with the PJM transmission system that the PJM staff wants the PJM Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee (TEAC) to include in PJM’s 2010 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP), to be released in February 2011.  The list includes the need to rebuild a section of Dominion’s 500 kV transmission line from the Mt. Storm power plant to Doubs, MD.  This is a part of Dominion’s non-PATH plan, but only a part.  The PJM staff appears to be using this repair project to co-opt the Dominion non-PATH project by turning it into a simple replacement project instead of a challenge to PATH as a system-wide “reliability” project.

The other document is a staff report to the TEAC at the November 10 TEAC meeting discussing “alternatives” to PATH.  Like the July 2010 PJM report on PATH, this report sets up “straw men” and then concludes by insisting that PATH is the best “alternative.”

Interestingly, the Nov. 10 power point contains a slide that describes all four of Dominion’s four PATH alternatives, including Alternative 1 which eliminates the need for any of the PATH line.  However, the “evaluation” of all alternatives to PATH includes only Dominion Alternative 4, ignoring the non-PATH Alternative 1 altogether.

So, from these two reports, it appears that PJM is trying to shove the Dominion non-PATH Alternative 1 into their smaller scale repairs projects, rather than considering it as a real alternative to PATH.  It appears that PJM won’t consider Dominion’s Alternative 1 because this alternative to PATH is simply better.  PATH’s current projected cost is $2.1 billion.  Dominion’s Alternative 1 projected cost is $620 million.  PATH requires the seizure of 5000 acres of land from Maryland, East Virginia and West Virginia land owners.  Dominion’s Alternative 1 requires no new right of way seizures.

PJM wants Dominion’s Alternative 1 to go away, because it is a direct challenge to PJM’s (and AEP’s) big transmission agenda.  By breaking Alternative 1 apart and then ignoring it in any discussion of PATH alternatives, PJM is trying to make this sensible alternative disappear.

We can’t let them get away with their scam.  Dominion’s Alternative 1 is exactly the kind of re-conductoring of existing transmission lines that TrAIL and PATH opponents have been advocating for four years now.  Its time has come.