The PATH power line project was never about grid reliability. It was about moving “excess” electricity supply from AEP’s and FirstEnergy’s Ohio Valley power plants to the much more high priced east coast markets — in short, Project Mountaineer. Electricity prices were higher on the east coast, because PJM Interconnection’s capacity market system had prevented new power plants from being built on the east coast for the past ten years.
PJM created the problem they were trying to “solve.” Here is a link to Baltimore Sun business reporter Jay Hancock’s explanation.
Grid reliability became the new fear tactic magnified by Enron’s near destruction of the California electrical system and the FirstEnergy initiated 2003 international blackout, caused largely by just the kind of regional interdependence that PATH would have magnified.
Don’t take my word for it. Here is NJ attorney Kevin Pflug’s excellent summary of AEP CEO Mike Morris’s strategy statement at the FERC sponsored 2005 Charleston Love Fest:
Speakers at the conference strategized that to ward off opposition to west-to-east transmission line expansion, power companies should use the regional transmission planning process to give credibility to transmission expansion projects and promote them as efforts to increase reliability, rather than reveal the true nature of the projects as efforts to increase the use of coal and thereby benefit the coal industry and the power companies that profit by exporting coal-fired electricity to the lucrative markets of the Northeast. Mike Morris, the President, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of AEP described how pushing these projects through with the regional planning process would lend credibility to the projects when he stated:
“[W]hat do power plant owners think about regional planning and how can regional planning bodies help us out? Let me group those two bullets together and say that we think that regional planning is an excellent idea without question. I think … the notion of taking a look at these things through an RTO lens, taking a look at these things through the regional state compacts that we’ve tried to put together makes a tremendous amount of sense because it lends credibility to what you’re trying to do.” FERC Transcript, p. 186 [emphasis mine]
My earlier post on this strategy has a link to the full Coal Love Fest transcript where you can read about every plan for the PATH coal by wire project as it was formulated six years ago. Who was a the center of Love Fest planning? Karl Pfirrmann, president of PJM’s Western Division. Here is Mr. Pfirrmann’s presentation at an industry conference in May 2005 where he shared the love about Project Mountaineer. There is no doubt that he is speaking on behalf of PJM Interconnection.
So PJM is not some neutral arbiter of grid reliability. Mr. Pfirrmann and PJM were there at the creation of Project Mountaineer and the latest incarnation of coal by wire. PJM has been working with AEP and FirstEnergy(originally Allegheny Energy) to promote the private business strategy of the two power companies at the expense of the electrical customers and grid system of our state and region.
Informed public outrage, new technologies, simple economics and common sense have caused coal by wire to retreat in our area for now. We are sure to see a new incarnation before too long. We’ll be ready for them next time.