PJM Pulls Plug on Proposed Transmission Line

Tom Johnson | October 7, 2011 | Energy & Environment
Regional grid operator says high-power link not needed to ensure system reliability

The regional operator of the power grid yesterday canceled another high-voltage power line in New Jersey, a decision coming just a day after a federal agency fast-tracked a more controversial transmission line through the New Jersey Highlands.

PJM Interconnection, the region’s electric grid operator, recently completed an analysis of the Atlantic City Electric transmission system and has determined that construction of the proposed Minotola-to-Lincoln 138-kilovolt transmission line is no longer needed to maintain the reliability of the system. As a result, Atlantic City Electric is cancelling plans for the line.

The decision is sure to give ammunition to environmental groups to cancel the Susquehanna-Roseland line, a 45-mile link extending from the Delaware Water Gap to Essex County, a project that cuts across the Delaware River, a national scenic waterway, and the Appalachian Trail.

Opponents of the transmission projects have been arguing a drop in electricity usage and advent of new technologies make additional high-voltage lines unnecessary. In a densely populated state like New Jersey, it is becoming ever more difficult to site new transmission lines, even when they are located along existing rights-of-way that have been in place for more than 80 years, as is the case with Susquehanna-Roseland.

Initially, the Atlantic City Electric project was approved by PJM to enable the system to handle future infrastructure improvements by the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility and load growth in southern New Jersey.

“Although PJM approved the line in 2008 as means of maintaining compliance with national and local electric system reliability standards, the most recent study has indicated there is not a need for the project,” said Robert Revelle, Atlantic City Electric Regional Vice President.

The analysis used the most current economic forecasts, demand-response commitments and potential new power generation facilities.

Atlantic City Electric, in partnership with PJM Interconnection, will continue to analyze the system on a regular basis and develop construction solutions as necessary to meet all required reliability standards.

The cancellation of the transmission project is the second system to be delayed by PJM.

Earlier this year, the board of PJM Interconnection cited the outlook for a slower economic recovery as the reason behind its order directing the transmission owners to suspend efforts to build the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), a project connecting a substation in West Virginia to another in Maryland.

“What’s happening with all these lines that were originally proposed are no longer necessary because of energy efficiency and new technologies,” said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Susquehanna-Roseland line, given what’s happening in the energy market, would go away on its own but President Obama has kept it alive by trying to make it happen.”