Citizens Testify at SCC Public Hearings, PEAT Guys Spout Nonsense

Several members of StopPATH WV attended East Virginia SCC public comment hearings on PATH in Winchester and Purcellville last week.  Here is there report.

AEP/Allegheny(FirstEnergy) tried to front-run the media on these hearings by having PEAT guys show up ahead of the meetings to give the power company party line to local newspapers.

PEAT guy Ron Poff went on and on about how the fact that PATH starts at the John Amos plant has nothing to do with PATH being coal by wire to the East Coast.  Mr. Poff claims to be an engineer and to know something about how PJM operates.  His cute little line that “electrons could come from anywhere” is nonsense and he knows it.

Here is are the facts.  The Cheney Administration, AEP, Enron and Congress, in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, set up the NIETC system and ordered the US Department of Energy to do a Congestion Study to determine where they needed to order construction of new transmission lines so they could start speculating on bulk electricity sales nationwide.  DoE dutifully complied and designated our area to be in the now-defunct Mid Atlantic NIETC.

PJM Interconnection played along with its biggest members AEP and Allegheny Energy and gave them PATH to resolve this “congestion” that Cheney and Enron were so worried about.  As the report from Cheney’s and Enron’s Secret Energy Task Force said, building a big new national Super Grid was the way to solve all these problems.  TrAIL, PATH, MAPP and the Susquehanna-Roseland line are all part of phase 1 in this scheme.

What is “congestion” in DoE’s and PJM’s universe?  Congestion is when the “cheapest” electricity generated on the PJM system cannot get to utilities (PJM calls them “load serving entities, because in deregulated states, “utilities” no longer exist.) that are calling for more power.  Here is a more detailed explanation.

Because most of coal’s costs to the rest of us are subsidized so heavily by federal and state failure to enforce the law, coal-fired power is always the “cheapest” on PJM’s system.  Under the requirements of “economic dispatch” that PJM is required by law to follow, if coal-fired power can’t get to every place on the PJM system that has a need for more electricity, the bottlenecks in transmission or distribution are designated as “congestion.”  This does not mean that no electricity can get to where it is needed, just that the “cheapest” power can’t get there and that power must come from slightly more expensive, more local power.  Here is more explanation on this subject.

So, lets take Mr. Poff through a simple logic problem.

  • AEP’s massive coal-fired plants in the Ohio Valley are all connected through the John Amos substation to the western end of PATH.
  • Coal-fired power must always be dispatched first on the PJM system.
  • There are times during the year when all the coal-fired plants on PJM’s system can’t get all their power to local users.
  • No other generating source on PJM’s system experiences the level of “congestion costs” that coal-fired plants experience.
  • PJM, AEP and Allegheny(FirstEnergy) all claim that PATH will eliminate congestion on the PJM system.

So Mr. Poff, what generation source would benefit most on the PJM system from the construction of PATH?  Should I give you multiple choice, or can you figure it out yourself?

Here’s a bonus question, Mr. Poff.  Which members in the Western PJM region have the most coal-fired power plants in operation?