Pennsylvania utilities and PJM Interconnection are bullish about summer reliability efforts in the state.
The state Public Utility Commission on July 9 released the summer reliability reports of various utilities, including PPL’s (NYSE:PPL) PPL Electric Utilities and Exelon’s (NYSE:EXC) PECO, which focus on reliability enhancement programs, preventative maintenance programs, capacity planning and 2012 storms and the lessons learned from them.
In its summer 2013 reliability assessment to the PUC, PJM Interconnection said the transmission system is expected to perform adequately based on applicable criteria. PJM also noted that it expects to reliably serve expected peak loads, which are expected to be slightly higher this summer compared to last summer’s weather-normalized loads.
The amount of demand response (DR) is down slightly from summer 2011, but DR has increased since 2006, helping to offset the impact of generator retirements, PJM said.
The 2013 PJM load forecast is about 1% lower than the 2012 load forecast due to the continuing effects of a slow economic recovery, PJM said.
PPL Electric Utilities said it believes it is operationally ready for summer to meet its customer needs and expectations.
Based on prior storm experience, the company said it has increased the funding and scope of its vegetation management efforts along multi-phase distribution lines and on 69-kV transmission lines. “Our practices are now more aligned with best in class vegetation management practices for avoiding vegetation-caused outages,” the company said.
PPL Electric Utilities said it plans more than $510m in capital improvements this year to maintain and improve reliability and meet increased demand on its transmission and distribution systems.
Additionally, substantial capital is being deployed for new large transmission expansion projects, including the 500-kV Susquehanna – Roseland line and the Northeast/Pocono Reliability Project.
The company also said that more than 42 load-based and reliability projects on the transmission and distribution systems were completed through June, strengthening its network in time for peak summer demand. Additional system modernization work is underway, as well as dozens of system improvements that will be completed through the rest of the year.
The company said key projects include rebuilding and reconductoring several older transmission lines under its vintage conductor replacement program; completion of a long-planned 69-kV transmission upgrade serving Lehigh and Bucks counties; construction of new transmission substations and lines to relieve load on existing facilities and improve operational flexibility; and expanded right-of-way and clearance on targeted transmission lines where reliability improvement is needed.
PPL Electric Utilities also noted that a new significant operating response team, or SORT, was created, and is an on-call organization that is activated to support timely investigation, repair and restoration of significant transmission and substation events that affect system operations and reliability.
The company’s system consists of more than 40,000 miles of overhead transmission and distribution power lines, nearly 450 substations and almost one million poles, according to the report.
PECO said it has made improvements to its transmission system and substations, including upgrading equipment and adding monitoring and control capabilities at Cromby and Eddystone substations, rebuilding a 138-kV transmission line in Montgomery and Delaware counties and beginning construction of a new 500-kV line.
“Summer is here and PECO is ready,” the company said in its report.
PECO also said its ongoing smart grid investments enhance reliability through microprocessor-based relay upgrades, fiber optic communications among substations and disturbance monitoring equipment across the transmission system.
Comprehensive vegetation management preventive maintenance programs are completed on distribution circuits and on transmission lines on a five-year cycle, protecting the transmission and distribution systems from vegetation-related interruptions.
PECO also noted that more than 35 projects have been completed this year that are key to meeting the increased demand customers place on the electric system, including installing substation equipment upgrades and new transmission wires and poles.
Among other things, the company said it completed various capacity addition projects that enhance its 2013 summer readiness, including:
- “220-02 & 220-31 Line Upgrades Planebrook to Bradford,” which cost $4.7m. PECO said 2013 system conditions confirmed the need for the projects to increase the capacity of the 220-02 and 220-31 transmission lines from the Planebrook to Bradford substations.
- “130-35 Line Upgrade Project,” which cost $18m and addressed potential emergency capacity issues on the 130-35 line. A significant portion of the transmission line was replaced between the Plymouth Meeting substation and the Bryn Mawr substation.
FirstEnergy’s (NYSE:FE) West Penn Power, Penn Power, Met-Ed and Penelec said in their respective reports that based on the system conditions modeled, their transmission systems are expected to sufficiently support the forecasted peak summer loading.
West Penn Power said in its report that it conducts an annual transmission readiness review with transmission operations to discuss the capability and reliability of the system for the summer.
The company’s review did not reveal any significant issues for the summer.
The company also said it is evaluating the potential use of helicopters to patrol transmission and sub-transmission systems during major events.
On 2013 summer readiness, Penn Power listed capacity additions, including the new 500-138-kV bulk transmission Cranberry substation, which was placed in service in June 2012 in Cranberry, enhancing the reliability of the entire transmission network for the western Pennsylvania area.
The company is also installing two new distribution feeders from the Epworth substation, which will serve the growing load in the vicinity of the I-79/Route 228 corridor. Furthermore, the company replaced a substation transformer at the Zelienople substation.
On capacity additions, Met-Ed referenced in its report the 115-kV Harley Davidson to Pleasureville line, noting that it rebuilt a 2.4-mile circuit section to add transmission capacity to the greater York area.
Of the 115-kV capacitor installation at Pleasureville project, the company said a new capacity was installed to address voltage concerns in the event of a N-1-1 contingency situation.
Met-Ed also said that the Northkill 230-kV to 69-kV substation project will add 168 MVA of capacity to Met-Ed’s sub-transmission system this summer.
The company is also evaluating the potential use of helicopters to patrol transmission and sub-transmission systems during major events.
Penelec said in its report that the 115-kV line between its Osterburg East and Bedford North substations was built in order to strengthen the high voltage transmission network’s reliability during contingency situations.
Also, a project involving reconductoring the 115-kV bus at the Eclipse substation addressed a thermal concern, which in turn is expected to enhance the overall reliability of the transmission system.
Penelec further noted that new 115-kV capacitors were installed at the Harvey Run and Farmers Valley substations to address voltage concerns in the event of a contingency situation, allowing the transmission system to maintain voltage magnitudes at acceptable levels.
Duquesne Light noted in its report several reliability enhancement programs. For instance, in an effort to improve reliability and improve public safety, the company has been replacing aged underground network transformers within downtown Pittsburgh. Since 2002, 205 network transformers have been replaced throughout the network areas, and in 2012, 29 of those network transformers were replaced.
“Duquesne Light is planning to replace 42 additional units for 2013, and to date, has completed replacement of 29,” the company added.
On transmission preparedness, Duquesne Light said its transmission planning group, along with PJM, continues to evaluate the company’s transmission system to identify system enhancement projects. Recent transmission upgrade projects include the addition of 138-kV and 345-kV circuits in and around Pittsburgh.
On 2012 storms and lessons learned, Duquesne Light said it continues, for instance, to make improvements to its social media plan, including leveraging social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to better provide timely storm restoration updates to customers.
UGI Utilities said in its report that its transmission system is in good condition, noting that it completed its annual inspection of its line deficiencies and vegetation conditions. Deficiency items that needed immediate attention were addressed, the company said.
In addition to fulfilling its biennial inspection, maintenance, repair and replacement plan as filed with the PUC that became effective on Jan. 1, UGI said it has other programs geared toward enhancing service reliability, including a “danger tree mitigation program” to identify and address off right-of way-trees that pose a threat to its transmission and distribution lines.
That program, the company added, involves line clearance crews identifying and addressing such trees.
Among other things, the company noted that from prior major storm experiences, it learned the need to communicate its progress on its service restoration effort to state and local governmental officials, particularly the expected duration of the restoration event.
UGI said it made improvements to its communications and outreach efforts, including embedding a member of its communications team onsite and establishing a command center to coordinate efforts across multiple communications platforms.