AEP/FE & PATH: Deadenders in the World of Zombies

We have known from the very beginning of the death of PATH that there were deadenders at AEP/FE and PJM.  They left their opening here, in PJM’s original statement:

As part of its 2011 RTEP, and in response to a request by a Virginia Hearing Examiner, PJM is conducting a series of analyses using the most current economic forecasts and Demand Response commitments, as well as potential new generation resources. Preliminary analysis reveals the expected reliability violations that necessitated PATH have moved several years into the future.

Based on these latest results, the Board has decided to hold the PATH project in abeyance in its 2011 RTEP. The Board further directs the sponsoring Transmission Owners to suspend current development efforts on the PATH project, subject to those activities necessary to maintain the project in its current state, while PJM conducts more rigorous analysis of the potential need for PATH as part of its continuing RTEP process. This action, however, does not, at this time, constitute a directive by PJM to the sponsoring Transmission Owners to cancel or abandon the PATH project.

PJM will complete this more rigorous analysis of the PATH project and other transmission requirements and then report the results to stakeholders when it is available. The Board will review this comprehensive analysis as part of its consideration of the 2011 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan.

StopPATH WV just posted a letter that AEP/FE are sending to land owners who were unfortunate enough to live along the planned route for the dead PATH project.  That power company letter repeats the deadender line that

In accordance with the PJM directive, the PATH companies have suspended nearly all activities on the project, including efforts to acquire easements, survey work and other field activities involving the proposed route.

PJM has undertaken an evaluation of its planning methods through a stakeholder process. This process will evaluate the criteria used to determine the need for transmission facilities. If the criteria are revised, the PATH Project will be re-evaluated by PJM in light of the revised criteria.

PATH is not dead because PJM dropped it from its 2011 RTEP.  PATH is dead because AEP/FE voluntarily made motions in WV, MD and East Virginia PSCs to drop their applications.  PATH is dead because the US Ninth Circuit threw out the entire US Dept. of Energy “congestion study” on which the need for PATH was based.  PATH is dead because the Enron/Cheney agenda to federalize the construction of thousands of miles of new transmission lines has been beaten back in court decisions and actions by states on the East Coast and across the US.  PATH may also be dead because First Energy has taken over AEP’s little buddy Allegheny and may not be interested in a joint project that will benefit AEP, FE’s major rival in PJM’s electricity markets.

It is clear that the deadenders at PJM and AEP/FE are not going to go away.

PJM has already started their promised revision of the RTEP process.  Here is the slide show from the most recent draft of their revisions.  You can see that PJM’s task force is proposing some needed changes to their RTEP process.  Here are a few that I picked out in my first run through:

  1. Instead of PJM’s current method of forecasting peak demand for three years and then estimating the rest of their 15 year planning period with what amounts to a straight line regression equation, the draft suggests the same three year forecast (the only length of time which can reliably be forecast) with a number of scenarios for the remaining years of the 15 year plan.
  2. The draft makes state goals for renewable power use and new renewable generation a part of the PJM planning process.  These state goals did not appear anywhere in PJM’s current RTEP planning, which was rigged to show a need for new huge transmission projects.  The one danger in this process is that PJM can rig the fuzzier math in favor of importing Midwestern wind power into the East Coast, while continuing to suppress new generation in the East using its capacity market system.
  3. The proposals increase the complexity of the RTEP analysis.  This is generally a good thing, because the real world is complex.  The draft proposals seem to add a number of new factors to the RTEP equation that supplement the old boneheaded focus on reliability.  However, I did not see any rethinking of PJM’s definition of reliability itself in the proposals.  PJM still controls the numbers, because they have all the data from actually running the system.  If they are still calling the shots on what numbers to use to calculate grid reliability, they still run the game.

So there are still lots of issues to be resolved –

  • What is the underlying definition of reliability on the system?
  • Is PJM going to create an RTEP system that considers alternatives for solving identified problems from the full range of options available?  Even the name of PJM’s process appears to guarantee a specific outcome.  The name for PJM’s planning process itself, “Regional Transmission Expansion Plan” states clearly that PJM’s only purpose in planning is to expand transmission.  This is just plain stupid if the planning process is going to be effective.
  • Is the RTEP system going to include specific criteria for cost effectiveness of solutions to identified problems?  Instead of repeating Steve Herling’s idiotic mantra that “PATH is the most robust solution,” PJM needs to focus on the cost effectiveness of solutions to meet the requirements of state laws.  Federal and state law all require that cost to rate payers is a major concern for any new projects.  This is the most obvious policy-related reform to the RTEP process, even before state generation or renewables policies.

So the deadenders are alive and well in AEP/FE and PJM.  If you want to keep the zombie PATH project in its grave, you need to stay alert and keep following developments on all levels.  Also keep in mind that only the WV PSC, as it always does with AEP/FE’s desires, is the only state to accept the PATH application withdrawal.  The MD and East Virginia cases are still in progress.  Either or both states could force AEP/FE to go to final hearings and defend their PATH project, which PJM has declared not needed.  By continuing their cases, the other states could truly kill PATH by rejecting the arguments of PJM’s and AEP/FE’s deadenders once and for all.