The Office of People’s Counsel in Maryland, according to a Sept. 1 letter filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), noted an appeal with the PSC from a proposed order of a public utility law judge issued on Aug. 18 in the matter involving Delmarva Power & Light’s proposed 138-kV line from the Piney Grove substation in Wicomico County, Md., to the Maryland/Virginia state line.
As noted in that proposed order, the proposed order would become a final order of the PSC on Sept. 2, unless before that date an appeal is noted with the PSC by any party to the proceeding, or the PSC modifies or reverses the proposed order or initiates further proceedings in the matter.
The public utility law judge, subject to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, (DNR) Power Plant Research Program’s (PPRP) final recommended licensing conditions, granted a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to Delmarva to build the line.
Those conditions include that Delmarva is to minimize construction disturbance to all rare, threatened, endangered, or disturbance-sensitive species that may be present in or adjacent to the ROW, including the use of fencing around known habitat areas, restricting construction during breeding or growing seasons, and implementing an environmental monitoring program during construction activities.
As noted in the proposed order, Delmarva in August 2015 submitted an application to the PSC for a CPCN requesting authorization to build the Maryland portion of the 30.9-mile, overhead line originating at its Piney Grove substation in Wicomico County and terminating at its Wattsville substation in Accomack County, Va. The company said that the Maryland portion of the project is about 24.75 miles, and that the project will resolve a PJM Interconnection demonstrated post-contingency thermal violation, which if not addressed may disrupt the flow of power from generation resources in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva Peninsula and adversely impact reliability, as early as June 1, 2018.
The proposed order also noted that to ensure that the line is in operation by June 1, 2018, the company indicated that it must start construction in Maryland by October 2016, and complete construction by May 2018.
The proposed order noted that there is no dispute by any party that the “need” for the additional 138-kV line in the Delmarva Maryland service territory is due to the increase in generation resources located in the southern Delmarva Peninsula, either operating or planned to be placed in operation by June 1, 2018, at the same time as a decrease in the level of demand for electric service in the Delmarva Peninsula has occurred.
Discussing testimony filed by parties, the proposed order noted that according to the OPC, for instance, the need for the 138-kV line is based on outdated load forecasts, which are substantially overstated according to PJM current load forecasts. Also, according to the OPC, the need is based on maximum output levels by solar generating facilities that are not expected to be available at the time of peak loads.
In rebuttal, Delmarva noted, for instance, that the project is a “baseline” project required to comply with NERC and PJM reliability criteria and it resolves various reliability violations within the area.
The public utility law judge said that it concurs with PSC staff that the alternative with the less-tall, H-frame pole further from the north bank of a river and located off the ROW centerline appears to have the lesser visual impact than the other aerial alternatives (Alternative C).
That alternative increases the cost of the project from $44.7m – based on Delmarva’s preferred alternative – to $44.9m, the public utility law judge said, adding, “In weighing the state’s policy to maintain the ‘wild’ segment of the Pocomoke River, I find that the relative slight increase in cost is justified by selecting the alternative with the lesser visual impact on this segment of the river.”
The public utility law judge continued, “Accordingly, I find that the construction of the Piney Grove – Wattsville 138 kV transmission line, with the aerial crossing Alternative C, is the better solution for resolving the reliability violation that may occur by June 1, 2018 on the Piney Grove – New Church 138 kV transmission line in the event of a common mode outage event on the Kings Creek – Oak Hall 138 kV transmission line.”
The public utility law judge concluded that, despite OPC’s assertion that a common mode outage event is highly unlikely, “the fact that the NERC standard calls for PJM to include in its planning studies testing to determine if the system reliability is vulnerable to multiple contingencies is sufficient to demonstrate that a common mode outage event is ‘plausible and likely,’ even if the likelihood may be low.”
Delmarva is an Exelon (NYSE:EXC) company.