Transmission Capacity: Essential for Avoiding Blackouts

By September 2, 2008Energy, Global Warming

The Washington Post opinion writers recognize that printing the newspaper at the company’s two printing sites (College Park, Md., and Springfield, Va.) or publishing a heavily trafficked website ( requires dependable electricity and transmission lines. Hence today’s editorial, “Across State Lines“:

IT’S NOT JUST Northern Virginia’s roads that are gridlocked. The region’s power lines are becoming increasingly overloaded, and blackouts are likely by 2011. A proposal that would bring cheaper electricity to Virginia while increasing the region’s energy capacity is now threatened. Two Pennsylvania judges recommended last month that a key portion of a $1.3 billion power line between the two states not be built. If the recommendation becomes reality, Virginians should prepare for more expensive, less reliable electricity.

The judges, Michael A. Nemec and Mark A. Hoyer, contend there isn’t a need for the Pennsylvania portion of the 240-mile line. They argue that consumers could reduce energy use and that power companies haven’t adequately examined alternatives.

We agree that conservation and alternative energy are important. But power lines in the Washington area already operate at, or near, maximum capacity most months. To avoid blackouts in Virginia, residents would have to curb energy use by 40 percent in the next few years.

The Associated Press covers the administrative judges’ ruling in this recent article, “Pa. judges deal setback to major new power line.” Allegheny Energy issued a news release on August 21, with a comment:

We are extremely disappointed in this administrative recommendation, which runs counter to the evidence presented. PJM Interconnection, the independent regional organization responsible for transmission planning, determined that this line was necessary for the reliable supply of electricity to homes and businesses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and mandated its construction, said Paul J. Evanson, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Allegheny Energy. We intend to vigorously pursue construction of this line with the Commission, particularly the one-mile section that is essential to regional reliability.

Thankfully, the much maligned Energy Policy Act of 2005 included legislative language intended to overcome state obstacles to siting and construction of transmission lines.

As for the Post’s editorials, isn’t it inconsistent to always be yammering for expanding the regulatory and taxation system to control greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time (as above) demanding more electricity generated from coal? Even if editorial boards are, by definition, institutionalized cognitive dissonance?

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