PJM, Mon Power respond to U.S. DOE power grid assessment for mid-Atlantic region

MORGANTOWN – Last week, we reported that as part of a national power grid assessment, the U.S. Department of Energy identified the mid-Atlantic region – including Monongalia, Preston and Marion counties – as an area where “there is significant need for increased within-region transmission capacity in PJM to maintain and improve reliability and resilience, lower consumer costs, and meet future generation and demand growth.”

As part of our reporting on DOE’s National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor Phase 2 report, we submitted questions to PJM – the 13-state regional transmission organization – and local area power supplier FirstEnergy, parent company of Mon Power.

Mon Power replied and week and PJM submitted its response on Monday.

We reported last week that DOE’s NIETC proposes for the mid-Atlantic a number of parallel corridor sections, about 2 miles wide and up to 180 miles long, where transmission and generation could be beefed up to increase resiliency and reliability and meet growing future demand. The report shows five corridor portions passing through or immediately adjacent to the local three-county area.

A NIETC, DOE explains, “is a geographic area where, based on its triennial National Transmission Needs Study or other relevant information, DOE has identified present or expected transmission capacity constraints or congestion that adversely affects consumers, and that has been designated by the Secretary of Energy as a NIETC.”

FirstEnergy told us last week it is “committed to enhancing the transmission system to make it more resilient, reduce future maintenance costs and increase flexibility to help grid operators respond more swiftly to variable conditions. We will continue to work with various stakeholders, including the states we operate in and industry associations, to ensure the NIETC designation process meets our customer needs for the future reliability of the electric grid. We do not expect the process to have a material impact on our transmission strategy.”

FirstEnergy said is has an Energize365 investment program, introduced in February. It focuses on building a resilient, flexible and technologically advanced grid that supports the energy transition, reliably integrates all types of energy sources and balances customer needs for reliability and affordability.

“Energize365 features planned investments of $26 billion across our distribution and transmission system between 2024 and 2028, forging a smarter, more secure and reliable grid that can accommodate electric vehicles, the electrification of homes and businesses, and clean energy sources.”

PJM said it does not have specific comments to offer on the NIETC, or on a report we wrote about previously, by advocacy group Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, which says that PJM is underestimating future demand and offers some suggestions for PJM to plan ahead.

PJM said Monday, “In general, PJM supports FERC’s goal in Order 1920, which encourages long-term, scenario-based regional transmission planning. And even before Order 1920 was issued, PJM was working with stakeholders to develop long-term scenario planning. Members are in the process of considering several manual changes that will enable PJM to embark on this process, as we integrate the requirements of the new rule and the requirement to plan at least 20 years into the future.”

NIETC Phase 1 began in December 2023. Phase 2 in May initiated a public comment period that runs through June 24.

DOE will then prioritize which potential NIETCs move to Phase 3, based on geographic boundaries and potential impacts on environmental, community, and other resources and preliminary review of comments. Phase 4 will the conclusion of the NIETC designation process with DOE’s issuance of final NIETC designation reports.

“The potential NIETCs included in the preliminary list,” DOE says, “focus on geographic areas where present or expected transmission capacity constraints or congestion that adversely affects consumers could be alleviated by the construction of new or upgraded transmission lines.” In most cases, the potential NIETCs include one or more potential transmission projects in some stage of development where a NIETC designation could help advance development of those projects.

ACEG calls itself a nonprofit “focused on the need to expand, integrate and modernize the North American high-energy grid.” PJM oversees electrical grid operations in all or part of 13 states (including all of West Virginia) and Washington, D.C.

ACEG projects that combining retirements and demand growth, by 2040 PJM would need somewhere from an additional 623 terawatt hours (TWh) to 798 TWh of generating capacity. The lower number is 76% of PJM’s current capacity; the higher number is nearly double its capacity.

Email: [email protected]