DOE congestion study should take near-term view – panelists

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2012 congestion study should take a five- to 10-year outlook, panelists at DOE’s congestion study workshop said Dec. 6.

Extending beyond that in a congestion analysis will render DOE’s study too speculative to be useful, they said.

“The valuable time frame is that in which we engage in actionable planning – the planning pursuant to the criteria we’ve laid down that results in projected needs for resources in the relatively near term,” said Chuck Liebold, manager of interregional planning for the PJM Interconnection. “It should include the resources we’ve identified that have a relatively higher commercial probability of coming to fruition.”

Given impending EPA regulations, generation retirements and interconnection requests for wind power that will be taking place within the next five to 10 years, a near-term outlook will lend more definition to transmission plans, said Mike Henderson, director of regional planning and coordination for ISO New England.

Henderson added that focusing on historical congestion on various transmission systems and evaluating the robustness of the transmission plans that are in place and the historical success of implementing those particular plans lends more to a “closer-in” view as a primary focus.

“The longer term you look, the more speculative the plans become and I think it’s certainly more definitive in that shorter time frame,” Henderson said.

This sentiment was uniform among the panelists, who also included Jim Busbin, Southern Company’s (NYSE:SO) supervisor of bulk planning; John Buechler, the New York ISO’s executive regulatory policy advisor; and Bob Bradish, American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) managing director of transmission planning and business development.

The workshop was the first of four the DOE is holding to solicit input on its 2012 transmission congestion analysis process.

“You can’t do anything less than five years in this transmission world,” Bradish said of a forward-looking study.

For source material and guidance, the panelists suggested DOE look at data from the various regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, including planning authorities’ studies of transmission system upgrades; the Strategic Midwest Area Renewable Transmission study, or SMARTransmission study; and the Eastern Interconnection Planning Authority’s two-phase transmission study. The latter, they cautioned, should not be relied upon heavily, however.

“I draw the analogy of the EIPC study to a Detroit concept car,” Liebold said. “You’ll never see it built, perhaps, but there are lots of elements in those cars” to learn from. “We learn lots of things from the very long-range studies that we can begin to anticipate and perhaps incorporate into our actionable plans. In order to have a good plan, you need to have a range of ideas of where you might be going in the future. In terms of this DOE congestion work, [the EIPC study] is probably of lower significance.”

About Rosy Lum 525 Articles
Rosy Lum, Analyst for TransmissionHub, has been covering the U.S. energy industry since 2007. She began her career in energy journalism at SNL Financial, for which she established a New York news desk. She covered topics ranging from energy finance and renewable policies and incentives, to master limited partnerships and ETFs. Thereafter, she honed her energy and utility focus at the Financial Times' dealReporter, where she covered and broke oil and gas and utility mergers and acquisitions.