Pushed off the PATH

They tried to put a good face on it, but Allegheny Energy (AYE) and American Electric Power (AEP) pulled the plug on their Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) in a filing made December 21, 2009 before the Virginia Corporation Commission. [1] The official reason is that electricity demand has fallen off because of the recession and thus the project is not needed as soon as had been anticipated.

The project sponsors preserved their options to file a new application at a later date—way later!

The project had faced a host of objections ranging from the typical NIMBY issues of property owners objecting that the high voltage transmission lines would be too close to their property or undermine their property values.  There were also complaints that the environmental analysis failed to consider the potential for expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy from wind as alternatives to the project.

Coal in Green Clothing

The principal protagonist heading up the opposition to this PATH project is the Piedmont Environmental Council based in Warrenton, West Virginia.  PEC has been fairly candid about its opposition to the project.  And the real reasons for its opposition has nothing to do with any of these “official” excuses.  PEC’s problem is summed up in its online members update on the status of opposition to the project.[2] The real sin of the PATH project sponsors is that they are coal fired power generators who refuse to promise that the new transmission line they propose to build will not carry coal-fired power in the future.  Without such assurances, which would be unreasonable to request formally and impossible to enforce, the project just does not pass the political correctness test.

Why We Need National Interest Electric transmission Corridors (NIETC)

So the environmental advocates have decided to kill the PATH project which would have expanded transmission access to a wide range of renewable energy resources because it might also carry power from coal or some other politically incorrect source.  Adding insult to injury, they got ten Democrat Governors to sign on to a letter to the various state regulators also opposing the project.[3]

Why is this signpost of the energy future?

Access to Markets is Essential to Renewable Energy Scale

The promise of both renewable energy and energy efficiency require, among other things, broad access to markets to bring renewable resources from Wyoming, Iowa, Texas and other places to the demand centers where such energy is required.  But the same is true for energy efficiency and demand response and a range of other demand side programs which offer the potential to change the future of the energy market place by making a true market in efficiency and demand management.  BUT, and this is a big but, scale is required to make these programs effective in achieving our emissions reduction and efficiency goals.

Access to Markets is Essential to Deliver the Promise of Smart Grid

Smart grid investments being stimulated by the Federal Government, encouraged by the States including these same politically correct Governors, will fail unless two conditions are in place to enable their full economic and market potential.  The first is transmission access to get renewables to market where they are needed in our fragmented and congested electric power grid.  And the second is scalable market potential so customers for energy efficiency, demand response, DSM programs and all those smart grid networks, sensors, boxes and gadgets can actually make a profit ‘doing well” while “doing good”.

If this is a signpost then don’t hold your breath waiting for the potential for smart grid and energy efficiency and renewables to save the planet because another part of the solution for these ills has just been pushed off the PATH!

By the way, we are still awaiting the USDOE release of the 2009 Congestion Study which was due to Congress in September 2009 but has yet to receive the necessary “clearances” from the White House to deliver it.  I guess it is safe to assume that PATH will not be one of the new NIETC transmission corridors proposed by USDOE.  The hold up can be either a good signpost or a bad one—we will not know until it is released.

If USDOE proposes a number of new NIETC corridors that substantially expand the transmission potential for renewable energy and to create a market in DSM and energy efficiency it will be a great signpost for the future.  My fear is that delay in releasing the report just like the PEC opposition to PATH is a signpost that environmental opponents care more about killing off power generation and transmission projects they don’t like than they do in creating a vibrant, sustainable, competitive market where renewable energy and demand side options can flourish.

[1] http://pathtransmission.com/PATH_VA_Press_Release_12-29-09.pdf

[2] http://www.pecva.org/anx/index.cfm/1,517,2546,0,html/Coal-in-Green-Clothing

[3] http://www.pecva.org/anx/ass/library/96/east-coast-govs-transmission-ltr.pdf