PJM “Planning” As Chaotic As Ever

Keryn has dug out the PJM Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee’s latest planning report – well, a slide show, but that’s the way the TEAC rolls.

It is always useful to go back and compare what people have said in the past, to see how good they are at predicting the future.  As usual, PJM comes up way short in the crystal ball department, while the expert witnesses in the PATH case turned out to be pretty correct.

Take a look at a similar TEAC report from June 2010, when PJM and the TEAC were still pumping PATH for all it was worth.  Note that many of the “problems” identified in the 2010 slide show were based on PJM’s screwy predictions for absurd growth in electrical demand by 2013.  These people need to be held accountable for their past failures, because the media keep presenting their industry propaganda as some kind of real planning process.

In the 2010 report, the TEAC identified 8 “potential thermal violations” on the PJM system, which could all be resolved only by PATH.  How many thermal violations does the 2013 report identify?  Zero.  Was PATH built?  No.  Demand in PJM remains flat and Dominion rebuilt the 500 kV Mt. Storm-Doubs line.

Here’s what expert Hyde Merrill said about PJM claims about thermal violations back in 2009:

Q. WHERE ARE THESE ALLEGED THERMAL ISSUES IDENTIFIED?
A: The alleged thermal issues relating to lower voltage line are identified for the first time in the April 2009 Retool Study, and they appear in the first six rows of Exhibit PFM-2 to Mr. McGlynn’s testimony. These are the only thermal violations that are alleged to appear in 2014, the last year in which PJM performed contingency and other formal analyses to evaluate reliability, as will be shown in Section IV below discussing alleged 500-kV thermal issues.
Q: IS PATH NEEDED TO SOLVE THESE ALLEGED RELIABILITY VIOLATIONS?
A: No. These alleged problems are associated with the lower-voltage system. PJM resolves many such problems every year without building 765-kV lines. It is not reasonable to build a 765-kV line to resolve issues that can be addressed with routine fixes that are far less costly, far less intrusive, and in some cases, more effective than the proposed PATH line. PATH is overkill as a solution for four of these six purported issues. According to PJM, PATH is only a temporary fix for the other two.

If you go through the 2013 TEAC slide show, you will see that much of the new work that PJM wants to do involves MVAR shunts and reactors.  These machines allow power companies to maintain adequate levels of reactive power in areas where voltages rise or fall below allowable tolerances to maintain voltage stability on the overall system.

PJM’s managers realized that their claims about thermal violations was weakening as demand increases that they had predicted just weren’t happening.  So, in 2009, as Mr. Merrill points out, PJM began to claim that PATH was the perfect solution to resolve newly identified voltage stability problems.  Here was Mr. Merrill’s response in 2009:

PJM’s claimed vulnerability to widespread voltage collapse was identified for the first time in April 2009, long after the line had been approved based on alleged 500-kV thermal violations. Now, PJM maintains that PATH is required to prevent alleged voltage collapse. However, PJM has admitted that installing 2,000 Mvars of capacitors would eliminate these voltage issues. And Company witnesses have admitted that the PATH project itself entails installation of 1,750 Mvars worth of new capacitors. In other words, PJM has identified a need to install new capacitors with or without the PATH line in service. So why not install PJM’s 2,000 Mvars of capacitors, costing $40 million, instead of the planned-for 1,750 Mvar and the $1.8 billion PATH project?

So, in 2013, is PJM wanting to build lots of new 765 kV lines to deal with voltage stability issues?  No.  They are adding reactive power equipment where it is needed.

The 2013 TEAC report also includes a lot of rebuilds and new construction of higher voltage transmission on the East Coast.  Most of the reactive power reinforcement projects are also on the East Coast.  Why?  Because that’s where the equipment problems are located, as we said throughout the PATH fight.

Also back in 2009, planning expert Eddie Dhedashti testified that PJM’s transmission planning process wasn’t a planning process at all, compared with the rest of the electrical industry.  PJM’s “plans” jump around from year to year, using different projects and assumptions every time they publish something.

So the comparison between the TEAC’s 2010 and 2013 reports raises one important question now.  If the TEAC was so wrong in 2010, can their 2013 plans be just as bad?

2 thoughts on “PJM “Planning” As Chaotic As Ever

  1. To paraphrase a remark I heard in the AIR FORCE, “this planning is for the purpose of spending money that is not ours. The last thing we want to do is supply a lot correct information.” I think this fairly summarizes PJM, et al. Danny

  2. But the difference now is that they have removed the bright line that caused all that “uncertainty.” Now, once a project is determined to be “needed,” it’s going to stay “needed,” no matter if it’s actually “needed” or not.

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