And What About Dominion’s Alternative 1? Is Now the Time to Act?

I was going to include information about the status of Dominion’s Alternative 1 in the previous post, but I decided that this issue deserves a post of its own.

Remember Alternative 1 that Dominion proposed as an alternative to PATH?

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

PJM has not presented any position publicly on this alternative to PATH, but has endorsed the biggest part of it, the rebuilding of the Mt. Storm to Doubs line.  But PJM continues to support building PATH as well.

Why does PJM matter?  Can’t the state PSCs make PJM build Dominion’s Alternative 1 instead of PATH?  No.  The state PSCs can only act on the projects that the power companies apply for.  The PSCs cannot propose or initiate their own projects.

Significant parts of Alternative 1, in particular, the Pruntytown to Mt. Storm 500 kV circuit, are owned by Allegheny Energy, one of the partners in PATH.  Allegheny will not voluntarily cooperate with Dominion in Alternative 1, because Allegheny’s shareholders stand to make so much more money from PATH than from simply rebuilding their existing line.  Allegheny could possibly be forced to participate in Alternative 1 only if PJM ordered it to.  That would only happen if PJM decided to stop supporting PATH and endorse Alternative 1 as to solution to its “reliability” “problems.”

Instead, we have seen that PJM wants to saddle PJM rate payers with both the Mt. Storm to Doubs rebuild and PATH, even though, in many ways, this represents outrageous duplication and over building.

So PJM is calling the shots right now on whether PATH or Dominion’s Alternative 1, in its entirety, gets built.  Alternative 1 is clearly superior in cost and property confiscation to PATH.

There is one way that the MD PSC, the WV PSC and the East Virginia SCC could force PJM’s hand — to reject the PATH applications in all three states.  They can decide against granting certificates of need for the PATH project, and force PJM to consider better alternatives.

In every case to date, all the delays in the three state’s PATH processes have been directly the fault of PJM, Allegheny Energy and AEP.  If there is such a big rush to fix PJM’s problems, why didn’t PJM conduct a real analysis of alternatives back in 2005, instead of riding the Project Mountaineer hobby horse?

Dominion’s Alternative 1 can be built faster and is more cost effective than PATH.  The state PSCs should act responsibly to push PJM to make the right decision.  The only way they can do this is to send a clear signal — NOW — that PATH is not the best solution to transmission problems in the region.

If there is really such a rush, as PJM, AEP and Allegheny claim, then the PSCs need to act now rather than later to force PJM’s hand.  Will the PSCs act responsibly, or will they fall back on legalistic dithering?

If the PSCs won’t act, is now the time for the governors of MD, WV and East Virginia to get engaged to push PJM to drop the useless PATH project and begin construction of Alternative 1?  Politicians have been wringing their hands about PATH, claiming that they can’t do anything.  Maybe now is the time for them to intervene in support of Alternative 1.

As I said in my earlier post, stay tuned.