It was beat up on PJM day today at the Platts Northeast Power Markets industry conference in New York.  In addition to being called "a complete failure," PJM's capacity market was also referred to as "PIG" by NJ BPU President Robert Hanna.

"The current [PJM] capacity market is skewed to incumbents and subject to manipulation by incumbents," he said.

Hanna said when he first took his post as head of the BPU -- he was appointed in December 2011 -- he was bewildered by all the acronyms used in the power sector, but he soon created his own for the RPM: PIG, which he said stands for Protection of Incumbent Generators.

"PIG rules," he said of the RPM..."

PJM Market Monitor Joseph Bowring sort of tried to defend PJM, but admitted, "it is gameable."

Read the complete article here.

How many times can one corporation contradict themselves in one short week?  At least three, if you're AEP.

If you've been reading along here, you'll remember that at their earnings call last week, AEP told analysts that they had a "great quarter" despite good weather (AEP loves them some climate change extremes!) and substantial customer switching in Ohio.  New CEO LittleDrummerBoy said that "demonstrates the value of the diversity of AEP's service footprint." 

Then on Monday, LDB told stockholders at AEP's annual meeting that they were undertaking a "repositioning of assets for a more sustainable fuel mix."  LDB pledged that coal will make up no more than 50% of AEP's generation assets by 2020.

Just yesterday, LDB told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that gas-fired generation is up 24% and that is a problem because gas prices are "volatile."  He pleaded for the feds to slow down the phase out of coal because AEP needs time to "transition their fleet."  This is only because AEP has been dragging their feet and attempting to change reality instead of making smart business decisions. 

Cue the irony!  "Betting on just one fuel to power our energy future isn’t smart,” opined LDB.  Really?  Isn't that how AEP got themselves into their current sticky predicament?  AEP's heavy bet on coal to power the majority of the company's generation portfolio, despite clear evidence that coal-fired generation was expected to become more expensive, was "betting on just one fuel," wasn't it?

AEP just "doesn't make sense," in a white hug me jacket kind of way, if you know what I mean... 

It's getting harder and harder to get that lid off the PATH zombie's coffin.

Read about Dominion's power plant-building program, part of a state plan to become more energy independent through the building of $4B of new generation over the next 4 years. 

Who needs PATH?
Note:  This post has been updated with more information, please read below for new updates and links to additional information!

A new 138kV transmission line between Buckhannon and Weston has suddenly popped up in PJM's latest TEAC presentationClick here to see the specific PJM slide relating to this proposed project.  No route has been proposed (at least publicly) for this transmission project, but it will require new rights-of-way on previously undisturbed land... possibly yours, if you live between Buckhannon and Weston.

PJM says "Approval of all upgrades in this presentation, except those noted as still under review will be sought from the PJM Board of Managers at their May 17th meeting."

Who is the PJM Board of Managers?

Don't forget how FirstEnergy (Allegheny Energy at that time) treated the landowners and environment while building their TrAIL project.

UPDATED April 29:

Bill at The Power Line has done some research on the applicable WV Code section(s).  Read his post about the proposed B-W line here.

This proposed line is a perfect example of how PJM's tightly interconnected transmission system works.  Changes made many miles away from you can result in the need for changes in your backyard.  Remember, any changes to the transmission system will result in more changes.  The entire PJM TEAC presentation lists hundreds of (mostly small) changes related to generation plant closings, primarily equipment upgrades, reconductoring and rebuilding, but very few new lines.  Other PJM documentation indicates that the B-W line is a result of FirstEnergy's first wave of plant closings in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland announced on January 26.  Further planning changes could occur before PJM's proposed June 1, 2016 in service date.  Meanwhile, PJM will make due with "operating procedure in place to mitigate impacts until this upgrade [is] complete."

Fortunately, there is much that can be done to shape this transmission project now, if it indeed proves to be necessary.  This is by far the earliest affected landowners have taken notice of one of these projects.  How many landowners regularly peruse PJM's extensive document collection to fish out projects that may affect them?  None.  I just happened to notice this project while paging through the document for other purposes.

As well, landowners potentially affected by the B-W project have a wealth of knowledge from which to draw that has been developed by grassroots groups opposing the PATH project.  The power companies rely on their tried and true "divide and conquer" methods to get these projects built.  The landowners' most effective weapons to best protect their interests will be knowledge and solidarity, and above all, strategy.  It's never too early to begin organizing.  Don't wait until the power company land agent is knocking on your door.  And that's about as far as I would like to go in this venue.  If you're reading this on the internet, so are the power companies.  Development of effective strategy must be kept close.  If you would like to discuss further, email us or Bill at The Power Line, however, execution and action will need to be carried out by affected individuals.  Nobody else is going to make this proposal magically go away for you, you've got to help yourself.  Situations constantly present themselves in life that make you say to yourself, "someone should do something about that!"  Who is "someone?"  "Someone" doesn't exist - "someone" is you.
Dominion has cooked up a way to get into your child's public school and indoctrinate them into a lifetime of power consuming sheep-hood by giving away free tree seedlings.

Dumbinion's "Project Plant-it" allows them to infiltrate schools to gather the little children for an assembly about the importance of trees.  Yup, kids, you're going to need a lot of trees to counteract Dominion's effect on your environment.

“This was a great event today,” said Suyapa Fields of Dominion. “These kids were really excited and enthusiastic and it’s just the type of response we like to see.”

Yes, I'm sure it is.  Dumbinion has their glowing finger stuck in a lot of subliminal pies.

Meanwhile, Duh-minion continues to foolishly squander the goodwill of many affected landowners all along the 100-mile length of  their Mt. Storm - Doubs rebuild project by using Allegheny Energy's "Godzilla on the way to Tokyo" transmission line building best practices to get the job done.  If you've got a Duh-minion story to share and would like to join our group of affected landowner watch dogs, email me.  Just saying, "We're not PATH!" isn't cutting it any longer, when Duh-minion's actions are indistinguishable from PATH's.
AEP held their annual stockholders' meeting the other day and this photo pretty much sums up the state of AEP's affairs:

The strings are nearly invisible!
Although "retired," our pal Mikey continues to control the strings of AEP's LittleDrummerBoy.  Pretty hard to step away from the throne, isn't it, Mikey?  You're going to continue to meddle for a long, long time, aren't you?

Anyhow, AEP has finally admitted that their Mikey-designed business plan was driving them to financial ruin and promises to wean themselves off their coal addiction by "repositioning their assets" to rely on coal for no more than 50% of their generation by 2020.  Over-reliance on any one type of fuel, such as coal, makes an electric company uncompetitive, doesn't it?  Duh, fellas!

Well, it's about time AEP abandoned their fruitless efforts to bully and buy the continued legislative maintenance of the dirty power company status quo under which they have operated for so long and admitted that their dirty business model and sworn allegiance to coal was not only unsustainable, but unprofitable as well, and was leaving AEP in the dust behind other companies that were willing to change with the times.  Let's hope their new found diversification plans actually translate into actual changes.

Let's take a look at AEP's Annual Report, called "AEP Sustainability."   Blah, blah, blah... we love being regulated because we get a guaranteed return in a regulated environment and don't have to compete with other companies!  And there's no better place to be regulated than at the bosom of Mother FERC while building unnecessary (but highly profitable!) long-distance high-voltage transmission lines!  Take a look at AEP's transmission plans.  PATH is still on the list, albeit all the way down at the bottom.  It looks like they deleted a sentence that was originally in the PATH blurb (see space and double periods).  So, therefore, it's up to your creative minds to decide what else AEP said about PATH.  Let us know in the comments what you think AEP may have tacked onto the end of their PATH paragraph and then deleted.

Those of you who filed comments on FERC's Transmission Incentives NOI probably got this from FERC yesterday.  So, what does it mean?  Nothing, really.  It's FERC's way of nicely saying that they haven't forgotten about the NOI and to go away until they want to rattle your cage.

Do you suppose FERC reads the blog?  After all, PATH has been trying to get them to check out the blog for the past two years...

Schadenfreude:  pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.

The schadenfreude was so thick you could cut it with a knife at AEP's Q1 2012 Earnings Call on Friday morning. 

Akins (LDB) set the tone by saying, in effect, that FirstEnergy is "un-American."

"And if it's at the company's expense, it's tantamount to taking capacity value that the company is committed for a 3-year period to PJM to run and giving it to competitors to subsidize the acquisition of our customers, which sort of seems a little bit un-American to me. It's really not competition, it's more a confiscation."

And it was all downhill from there...  Most of the questions centered around the Ohio Charlie Foxtrot so enjoy the schadenfreude in the Q & A section.  Although all the stuttering isn't evident in the transcript, the meaningless buzzwords that these prevaricators use as a crutch are prevalent ("optionality" "repositioning" "volatility" "a transition that makes sense" - hey, that was Mikey's line about the EPA rules - remember, anything that's not beneficial to AEP's bottom line doesn't "make sense.")

Overall, AEP is looking pretty sad!  Revenue is down because of customers dumping AEP and a mild winter (even Mother Nature hates AEP!)  Prices and demand are down for AEP's dirty coal power and gas use is up 26%.  Ut-oh, AEP, pretty crappy planning there, don't ya think?  Read a summary here.

AEP says that pulling the wool over the eyes of the PSC and legislature in WV regarding "securitization" is much easier than it is in Ohio.  Somehow $325M of fuel debt inflated to $400M of "fuel debt" during the earnings call.  The difference is all the unrelated debt APCO tossed into their WV "securitization" amount of $400M.  West Virginia = proud to be AEP's patsy cash cow!

"We have a similar situation in APCO West Virginia where we have nearly $400 million of deferred fuel that we are filing to securitize there. And think we're on a faster track to be able to securitize that close to $400 million than we are in Ohio."

And don't miss the part where LDB starts talking about "designer coals."  That's just what AEP needs -- fashionable, expensive coals that make people desperate to power their homes with only the best!

It's payday, friends!  Since the only payment I receive for doing this is laughter, the really good can't-catch-your-breath-tears-streaming-down-your-face kind, I not only got well paid today, I think I may have also gotten my yearly bonus!

FirstEnergy responded to AEP's lemonade ad by setting up their own special website and launching a print and radio campaign.  Yeah, yeah, I know li'l CoalFella said FirstEnergy had no plans to respond, as recently as Tuesday, however it appears that we have inspired him with our cheerful singing!  FirstEnergy also says that they have no plans for a TV commercial at this time (they're still probably trying to convince Tony the Trickster to play the mob boss).

So anyhow, go visit FirstEnergy's little website,  Too bad, was already taken, but at least they're sticking with their "for" theme.  What's next?  I can't wait!

Li'l CoalFella's new website has all kinds of fun stuff on it.  Hear the bitchy-sounding radio commercials, email the PUCO, or sign li'l CoalFella's petition!  Remember way back when li'l CoalFella's PEAT group had a petition on their website?  It was hard, but I resisted signing it with made-up names.  Not so for a bunch of other people, or so I hear.  So, have fun everybody!  Perhaps we should initiate a contest for the most creative made-up name that gets published on li'l CoalFella's petition?

Ironically, li'l CoalFella and his FirstEnergy co-workers now want you to "Stand up and fight!" after years of trying to get you to sit down and shut up about their PATH project.  Isn't that refreshing?  I'm glad they've finally seen the light and picked up a few pointers from us over the years.

Keep singing!  Perhaps we'll see a TV commercial soon...

Read More

For accounting purposes, the PATH Project is split into two different companies in PATH's FERC Formula Rate cost recovery process.  Every year around mid-April, these two PATH Companies (PATH-Allegheny, which includes the project from Welton Springs north, and PATH-WV, which comprises the project from Welton Springs south) are required to file a package of financial forms that detail their spending over the previous year, FERC Form No. 1.  The Form No. 1 data is the basis for each PATH company's annual true up filing on June 1, which compares PATH's collected projected costs with their actual costs for the previous year.  The true up, which PATH calls their Annual Update filing, is the document that is subject to discovery and challenge by interested parties, and the subject of those fun, summer meetings (now conference calls) where interested parties have peppered PATH with questions about their spending.

Both PATH companies have now filed their Form No. 1 for 2011, which gives us a preview of things to come and allows us to make comparisons and pick up a few other tidbits of useful information.  Ready?  Here we go!

On the capital side, PATH-WV has $58.8M invested in  CWIP and land held for future use, and PATH-Allegheny has $43.5M in CWIP and $19.8M in plant in service (which is where they hide their land).  This amount represents the companies' investment in PATH that earns a 12.4% return every year, and what they'll try to recover once the project is abandoned.  These totals are much less than the originally projected amounts for 2011, made before the project was suspended, of $95.3M and $101M.

Operations & Maintenance (O&M) are the yearly costs that are expensed, or recovered dollar for dollar as they are spent.  PATH-WV's total is $3.2M and PATH-Allegheny's total is $3.9M.  Within O&M is the subtotal of Administrative & General (A&G) expenses.  This is where a lot of PATH's wasteful spending gets shoveled off to.  PATH-WV's A&G total is $1.9M and PATH-Allegheny's is $1.2M.  Within A&G are some of the "problem" accounts PATH uses as "catch alls" for expenses that don't quite fit and have been repeatedly challenged, such as Outside Services (923).  Now remember, the PATH Project was only active for 2 out of 12 months of 2011.  You'd think, therefore, that their expenses should be 1/6 of previous activity, right?  PATH-Allegheny's 923 total is $465,897, down from just over $1M in 2010.  PATH-WV's 923 total is $927,503, down just slightly from $1.3M in 2010.  What "outside services" do you suppose PATH spent all that money on while their project was suspended for the majority of the year?

Advertising expenses in 2011 were budgeted at $400K, but totaled only $79,626 for PATH-WV and $22,934 for PATH-Allegheny.  I hope all of that wasn't spent on this stupid internet advertising campaign that relied on a bunch of unwieldy video files that took forever to load and provided a link to the PATH opposition's Coalition for Reliable Power website as an option for disgusted targets who didn't want to wait 15 minutes for a video to load.  Oh, how we laughed at that!  Remember "Charles Ryan Assco. has a Secret!"?

Also in A&G are Miscellaneous General Expenses (Acct. 930.2).  This is where PATH hid all their "memberships," like their $20,000 "sponsorship" of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.  PATH-WV's 2011 total is $12,269 and consists of $9,330 in "industry association dues" and other miscellaneous of $2,939.  PATH-Allegheny, who had a real problem with recording "sponsorships," "lobbying," "donations" and "corporate stewardship" as "industry association dues" in Acct. 930.2, seems to have cleaned up their act for 2011.  Their 2010 total was just over $60K, however their 2011 total is just $4,460, of which only $3,816 were "memberships."  I'm guessing all the spit dried up in their mouth after the last challenge was filed.

Other interesting observations:

There are certain accounts entitled "Donations" and "Expenditures for certain civic, political and related activities" that act as deductions to income that PATH has also sorely abused.  While the amounts in these accounts are not recovered directly from ratepayers, that's a slippery slope.  Let's look at it this way:  All PATH's income comes from ratepayers.  If a ratepayer gives PATH a dollar, PATH could put it in its pocket. Or, PATH could choose to give that dollar to a lobbyist.  It's really still your dollar, but PATH chooses to spend it on influencing instead of putting it in their own pocket.  One of FERC's reasons for allowing companies like PATH to place CWIP in rate base is that it will generate income during project construction that can then be put back into the project, lowering borrowing and interest that would otherwise have to be repaid by ratepayers.  However, instead of using your dollar to purchase project assets, PATH frittered away huge sums of project income on purchasing influence instead. PATH used "donations" to buy favor with organizations and communities, and "political activities" to hire lobbyists to influence state approvals.  In 2011, PATH's "donations" were $10,424 for PATH-WV and a mind-boggling $60,153 for PATH-Allegheny, a jump of nearly $30K for a project that was supposedly "in abeyance."  Of course, you gotta wonder where the expense of all those "memberships" went -- out of your pocket and into theirs? ;-)  PATH-WV's "political activities" totaled $22,108 in 2011 and PATH-Allegheny's totaled $67,131. 

Wrapping up here, PATH-WV over-recovered from ratepayers in 2011 again, this time in the amount of $1,238,773.  This amount will be repaid to you in 2013, with 1/4 of 1% interest.  However, PATH-Allegheny under-recovered in the amount of $3,992,752.  This amount will be charged to you in 2013, plus the same percentage of interest.

Wow!  How did they screw up their projections so badly, right?  I'll tell you how.  Those amounts include forfeited property option payments that the PATH companies moved from CWIP to expense in 2011 in the amount of $26,200 for PATH-WV and a whopping $2,464,112 for PATH-Allegheny.  This nearly $2.5M is your money that was completely wasted by PATH during their premature push to get landowners to sign over their property before they even had necessary state permits.  Because PATH thought their project was such a "done deal" they felt free to imprudently waste your money hounding landowners before their state cases had even made any progress at all.  And it's not over yet!  According to another report the companies have both filed, PATH-WV expects to expense another $250,000 of property options in 2012 and PATH-Allegheny is expecting $109,000.

Property option forfeiture.  Dead project.  Give up, PATH!