WV PSC Attorney Auville on Fire About Transmission Planning

Today, WV PSC staff attorney John Auville filed his response to AEP’s and FE’s responses to his petition to require a study of the condition of all WV transmission lines.  Here is the link to his filing.

Auville rejects power company requests to move his thirty day deadline for reporting back to 120 days, hinting that power company engineers are incompetent if that information is not readily available.

As for issues concerning the duty of the WV PSC to our state and its citizens, I’ll let Mr. Auville speak for himself:

While Staff recognizes both Allegheny/First Energy and American Electric Power have agreed to provide this information to the Commission, Staff has some concerns about the information the Companies plan to put in the report coupled with some general concerns about the transmission planning, or the lack thereof, that is being done by both Companies.

The first issue is both Companies appear to intimate that they, and by inference this Commission, have abdicated responsibility for all high voltage transmission planning and maintenance to PJM. Staff realizes PJM is the regional transmission planning authority; however, this fact does not absolve the utilities from their duty to plan and maintain the operation of their own equipment. Staff expects the utilities to study their own transmission equipment and undertake projects which improve the condition and performance of the equipment outside of the PJM process. Otherwise, the system ends up in the condition presented in the TrAIL proceeding: a system in crisis with very limited options or solutions which all but eliminates the possibility for a complete review of less costly options. The Companies’ reliance on the PJM process is not transmission planning. It is transmission reacting and is not in the best interest of West Virginia customers.

Staff expounds that a perfect example of the type of behavior Staff expects from the utilities in this State was recently displayed by VEPCO, who approached PJM on its own to rebuild the Mt. Storm-Doubs line. VEPCO chose not to await any directive from PJM on how to upgrade the line as VEPCO saw a window of opportunity and seized it. VEPCO’s rebuild will not only eliminate the possibility of a disastrous tower failure, but will also dramatically increase the carrying capacity on the line. That tells Staff that not only were the towers outdated, severely deteriorated and in need of replacement, but the conductors and wire were old, outdated and in need of replacement as well. At some point an asset becomes so inefficient that it needs to be replaced in order to keep up with technological advances.

A utility should not wait until the asset fails or until PJM has given them a directive to do something with the asset to repair/replace it. The VEPCO example is the kind of proactive planning Staff expects the utilities in this State to engage in along with the type of information Staff expects to be contained in any report submitted to the Commission. Staff asserts at a minimum, any report should contain the name of the line, the age of the line, the length and location of the line, the current condition of the line in terms of physical condition and its operating efficiency and any planned upgrades to the line and facilities.

Considering the tone of the responses from both AEP and Allegheny/First Energy in conjunction with the average at best maintenance of rights-of-way, performance, etc. the Commission discovered in the recent “Storm Outage GI,” Staff is concerned the electric utilities have forgotten their main objective: to provide safe and reliable electric service to the citizens of this State. The main objective of any report filed with the Commission is for the Companies to give the Commission a clear picture of the condition of the transmission assets in this State and what if any type of planning and maintenance the Companies are engaging in relation to those assets beyond “we are waiting for PJM to tell us what to do next.” This is an opportunity for the Companies to inform the Commission how they are fulfilling their duty to the citizens of this State and prove they are concerned about the maintenance of their facilities and are proactive in the planning and maintenance of their transmission facilities.

West Virginia needs PSC commissioners who will stand up and require AEP and FE to “fulfill…their duty to the citizens of this state” instead of “waiting for PJM to tell us what to do next.”  This is a requirement of WV’s PSC commissioners as well.

2 thoughts on “WV PSC Attorney Auville on Fire About Transmission Planning

  1. Holy cow! It’s been a long time since a WV PSC staff person spoke so forcefully and in plainspeak, and without obvious and odorous political bias in a document filed in a legal proceeding. Kudos to PSC staff attorney John Auville.

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