PJM Interconnection will consider the future of the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline Project (PATH) in June or July, a PJM representative told TransmissionHub March 7.
As noted in PJM’s 2011 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan, or RTEP, released March 2, due to a slower economic recovery outlook and increased demand response in the region, PJM suspended the PATH project in February 2011. In August of that year, PJM also put the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, or MAPP, line in abeyance due to expected reliability violations moving further into the future.
PATH is a joint venture between the former Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) to build a 765-kV, 275-mile transmission project from Putnam County, W.Va., to Frederick County, Md. Allegheny merged with FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE), effective Feb. 25, 2011.
A company spokesperson told TransmissionHub March 7 that PJM’s review of PATH in the spring or summer “has always been the plan,” and that the next step is to “wait and see what PJM finds in [its] next analysis.”
Pepco Holdings’ (NYSE:POM) MAPP project has seen delays and is expected to enter service in 2020.
Voltage criteria violations in 2016 and beyond are not entirely unexpected, PJM said in its 2011 RTEP, noting that the MAPP and the PATH projects – now in abeyance – alleviated voltage issues that were right behind the thermal criteria violations that drove the original need for those lines.
The 2016 RTEP analysis did not include the MAPP and PATH lines, PJM said.
As PJM’s board action placing the PATH and MAPP projects in abeyance suggests, dramatic swings in economic forecasts, demand response, generation retirements and evolving public policies are adding greater uncertainty to PJM planning studies, PJM said. Those two projects are two examples of abeyance action, but others exist as well, including removal of the Indian River-Salem segment from the MAPP project.
PJM also said that planning is a dynamic process and system conditions change over time, noting that changing circumstances may result in the need to adjust the assumptions used in planning studies and to re-evaluate decisions made as a result of previous planning analyses.
In PATH’s case, the 2011 load forecast projected slower rates of load growth for the near term than had been seen in earlier forecasts. Changes in generation additions and retirements, particularly if the plants are electrically proximate to constrained facilities, have the potential to affect the appearance of reliability violations in dramatic ways, as does increasing reliance on demand response and energy efficiency programs, PJM added.
Backbone transmission projects, particularly those as complex as the PATH and MAPP projects, cannot be effectively planned, funded, approved and constructed if they are continually taken on and off the table based on updated data, PJM said. Once a project is shelved, it cannot simply be put back on track when system conditions and revised load forecasts, for instance, suddenly change course.
Regional expansion planning drivers can cut both ways, PJM added, noting that any one individual factor may contribute to the need for one transmission expansion upgrade and simultaneously mitigate the need for another. New generation at one interconnection point may increase cross-system power transfers while another may back them off thereby helping to mitigate congestion.
PJM also said its staff and stakeholders have reviewed various ways to improve the RTEP process and related generator interconnection process. This effort is driven by many factors, mostly the changing planning landscape given impacts of the economy, new environmental regulations and the need to address events that could affect the timing of reliability projects.
PJM and stakeholders have discussed, through the regional planning process task force, or RPPTF, how the planning process can consider at-risk generation, incorporate public policies enacted by state and federal entities, enhance the integration of renewable resources and account better for the growth of demand response and energy efficiency programs.
The RPPTF has also reviewed how PJM can consider and designate alternative transmission proposals to an entity other than a local incumbent transmission owner, PJM added, noting that all of these goals point toward a more robust planning process. The first step is to expand the communications and stakeholder interaction elements of the existing PJM RTEP protocol to provide information to stakeholders within the PJM footprint, PJM said.
Among other things, PJM said it has expanded scenario planning and communications elements of the existing RTEP protocol, comprising the “FYI Process,” which is not a new decision-making approach, but it puts a name to the analytical and communications pieces of the RTEP protocol in place today and expands them. The process provides stakeholders even greater up-front opportunity to provide input on modeling assumptions and analytical scenarios, and post-analysis opportunity to review and discuss study results, PJM said.