A Closer Look at Mr. Skirpan’s Ruling in East Virginia

I have finally had a chance to review SCC Hearing Examiner Alexander Skirpan’s recommendations and ruling in the East Virginia PATH case.  You can view the entire ruling here.

Mr. Skirpan’s recommendations are clear, thorough and judicious.  I believe he made exactly the decisions that needed to be made in any withdrawal of a PATH application for a certificate of need.  The WV PSC’s hasty decision, with no conditions was exactly the wrong way to manage a withdrawal.

I found Mr. Skirpan’s explanation of PJM’s base case projections to be simple and clear.  If you’ve been wondering what all the ruckus was about, here is a simple description:

In this proceeding, the latest base case load flow analysis completed by PJM indicated that the first thermal violation does not occur until 2021 and is on the Mt. Storm-Doubs transmission line.8 This violation will be addressed by the rebuild of the Mt. Storm-Doubs.9 The only other thermal violation slated to occur before 2025 in PJM’s current base case load flow analysis is on the Pruntytown-Mt. Storm transmission line in 2024.10 This violation will be eliminated with the construction of Dominion’s Warren County 1400-megawatt gas-fired generation project.11 In other words, in this proceeding, PJM’s latest base case load flow analysis fails to indicate any thermal violations through 2025.

When PJM ran its system under peak load with two generators dropped off, as in a serious emergency, all the electricity that needed to be transferred was able to get where it was going on PJM’s system except for overheating (thermal violations) beyond required limits on two existing transmission lines.  One, Mt. Storm to Doubs, will be rebuilt soon, eliminating one set of thermal violations.  The other problem is on the Pruntytown to Mt. Storm line in WV (which the WV Legislature just urged the WV PSC to require FirstEnergy to rebuild).  That problem will be resolved when Dominion Virginia Power builds its new natural gas fired power plant in northern Virginia in the next five years.

That’s it.  No PJM mumbo jumbo about TEACs and RTEPs.  Just a plain and simple “not needed.”

The other wise decision that Mr. Skirpan made was to rule that any future application must be based on PJM’s 2012 Regional Transmission Expansion (Why can’t they call it “improvement”?) Plan.  This effectively postpones any new application for any PATH-like project until early 2013 at the earliest.

FirstEnergy attorney Randall Palmer whined that setting a date for any future application was against Virginia law.

Mr. Skirpan replied that his ruling was based on simple logic, not any attempt to set a deadline.  AEP/FE was requesting a withdrawal of the current PATH application based on information developed in their 2011 RTEP process.  The final RTEP won’t be released until February or March of 2012.  The 2011 RTEP states clearly that PATH is not needed at all, so PJM will have no new information which could possibly justify a new PATH application until the next RTEP, the 2012 RTEP, is completed and published in early 2013.

So, at least in East Virginia, there cannot be a new PATH-like application until March 2013 at the earliest.