After two years of Dominion refusing to do any publicity on its Mt. Storm - Doubs transmission line rebuild, rival FirstEnergy has swooped in to take all the credit for the project.

Cue the irony.
While Dominion has been doing a great job with directly affected landowners, the company has completely failed to disseminate any information about its project to the greater community.  As if folks don't notice the access roads, the helicopters, the construction traffic, the road closures, the implosive splicing...  I've gotten mighty tired of having to reassure people that this is not the PATH project, that this is a permitted activity, and that the world is not exploding.  But I do it, not for Dominion, but for the people who are the victims of Dominion's "secret" rebuild project.

Mt. Storm - Doubs (MSD) is a smarter, better solution than building the PATH project ever was.  So, let's get 'er done, fellas,  so that I can stop having this distraction sitting on the edge of a rather full plate
.

The MSD transmission line begins in Mt. Storm, West Virginia
and ends at the Doubs substation in Frederick County, Maryland.  The 96 miles of the line located in West Virginia and Virginia are owned by Dominion.  The last 3 miles of the line in Maryland are owned by FirstEnergy.  Each company is responsible for permitting and constructing its own segment of this project.  Dominion has been working on its portion of the project for more than 4 years.  FirstEnergy only recently got off it's corporate ass to do its part on the last three miles.

Well, yay, FirstEnergy!  You da man!  Fourteen transmission towers and 3 miles of line? 
Awesome!  Put Toad Meyers in a hardhat and push the "on" button.  That should ameliorate your billing and meter reading fiasco, right?

Wrong.

Back in 2010, while the PATH was still madly attempting to get it's 300 mile, 765kV transmission line sited and permitted
on new right of way, Dominion dropped a bombshell on transmission planner PJM Interconnection.  Dominion proposed several alternatives to the PATH project (which was never actually "needed").  One of the alternatives involved rebuilding MSD because of deteriorating towers.  A rebuilt and modernized MSD would increase the thermal capacity of the existing line 66% and make the addition of PATH's capacity unnecessary.  Both PJM and PATH partners FirstEnergy and AEP tried to deny the proposal and insist that PATH was still necessary.   That was the beginning of the end for PATH.  The Virginia SCC got mighty suspicious and ordered PJM to re-run some data on the necessity for PATH if MSD was rebuilt.  Low and behold, the data showed that there really wasn't a need for PATH after all and PJM suspended (and later cancelled) the PATH project.  PATH withdrew all its project applications and went into hiding, after wasting a quarter billion dollars of consumer funding on the project.

Ahhh... good times!  :-)

Now FirstEnergy says "look at me!" and give me credit for modernizing the electric grid.

Kind of makes you wish that someone would drop a load of insulators on Toad's hard hat, doesn't it?


Oh, what would I do if I didn't have this little outlet...

 
 
Customers in the deregulated states of Illinois and Ohio are up in arms about FirstEnergy's plan to stick it to them with a $5 - $15 one-time charge to pay for what it says are "unexpected costs incurred during the polar vortex."

"FirstEnergy Solutions is preparing to bill about 2 million of its 2.7 million retail customers a surcharge for expenses the company will soon have to pay for reserve power it needed when temperatures plummeted below zero."  2,000,000 x $15 = $30M

That's $30M being transferred from consumers pockets into the pockets of FirstEnergy.  A company spokeswoman opined, “We consider that pretty nominal.”

I wonder if she also considers CEO Tony Alexander's annual $23M compensation "nominal."  If the big guy took a pay cut, it would almost cover the cost of the "polar vortex," wouldn't it?


Crain's described the reason for the charge like this:

"The company confirmed that it will impose a one-time charge of between $5 and $15 on customer bills in June to recover a portion of its power-purchasing costs made through PJM Interconnection LLC's regional grid, which serves 61 million people in all or part of 13 states from northern Illinois to the Mid-Atlantic, as well as Washington. In January, PJM — which acts as a market referee for power generators — lifted caps on the price natural gas-fired power plant operators could charge as the cost of gas soared due to record demand, and electricity consumption likewise spiked.
"

The Plain Dealer described the reason for the charge like this:

"When the arctic blast hit the region in early January, demand for electricity spiked - and simultaneously dozens of power plants failed because of the weather, mechanical problems or because of fuel problems.

About 20 percent of the PJM region's power plant capacity went down, he said, threatening the stability of grid. And because the cold was widespread and lasted many days, PJM grid operators found that they could not import power from other areas.

Wholesale power prices then skyrocketed. PJM reduced voltages by 5 percent, asked for voluntary conservation and even briefly considered rolling brownouts to avoid a grid collapse and blackout.

But PJM also ordered more expensive power plants to begin generating, just to keep the system stable, he said
." 

But here's another reason:

FERC compounded the problem by lifting a $1000 price cap and allowing these greedy corporate entities to further game PJM's malfunctioning markets.  FERC has allowed generators to charge whatever they want, and is in denial about any "harm" that may result: 

"FERC said PJM's proposal met the commission's criteria for approving waivers, as doing so would remedy a 'concrete problem,' would not harm third parties and would be limited in scope."


It's really not sounding very "limited in scope," is it?


In addition, FirstEnergy ended up purchasing so much expensive power because many of its generation plants were out of service.  Where does FirstEnergy's fault in that end and the consumer's responsibility for the charges begin?


Not all electric companies are passing these "polar vortex" charges on to their customers, however.  But, FirstEnergy is shuckin' and jivin' like a champ
on a "special website" the company has set up to serve you some koolaid, as well as in the media:

"
Francis of FirstEnergy Solutions declined to say how much her company has been billed by PJM, except to describe the amount as unprecedented. She said the company is passing on only a portion of the charge to customers."

FirstEnergy also said the company has no idea how much it will have to pay
.

"Ms. Francis declined to say how much in unanticipated vortex-related costs FirstEnergy Solutions must pay, saying that figure was confidential. FirstEnergy will know next month precisely how much the surcharge will be, she said."

Yes, it seems that the real cost to FirstEnergy is going
to remain a deep, dark secret, not even revealed to the company's investors.

That's because:


"We thought it was necessary to pass through these costs to customers where contracts allow,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Diane Francis said."

Necessary?  FirstEnergy thought using the fine print in its contracts to stick it to customers in deregulated states was so very funny during its last earnings call.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Yeah. Hi, good afternoon.

Tony Alexander - President & CEO
Hi, Steve.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Hi, Tony. I guess this question might be for Leila. I think you mention the PJM ancillary cost that some of those get pass through the customers?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
Yes.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Is that just in certain states or how does that work? How do we know which areas get pass through or not?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
It is pursuant to contract in a specific language within the contract so it is not a state by state kind of thing, Steve.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Okay. So it is certain types of your customer classes?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
In?

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
In a retail business?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
It is not even the same throughout particular classes.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Okay.

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
It is as that contract language was developed for that particular customer or grouping of customer. So there is no way I can even give it to you by segment.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Okay. So some of the cause when you get this data come up will be cause that you absorb but some of those would be available to essentially pass through your contracts to the customers?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
Correct.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
And in the future, do most of your contracts have that clause, so new ones do or not older ones or vice versa?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
I think it would be safe to say that we are going to be adding that language where we can in the future.

Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
Got it. Okay. Thank you. Just want to clarify that.

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
Okay.
So, if you don't want to get stuck with these kind of charges in your deregulated electric bill again, do like the City of Rockford and look for a new supplier ASAP.
 
 
Reports of mysterious explosions in the vicinity of Dominion Power's Mt. Storm - Doubs transmission line in Jefferson County, West Virginia, continue to upset local residents.

Rumors have begun circulating that Dominion's transmission rebuild project is actually only a front for a different, more sinister company objective recently initiated to help tide Dominion over during this period of ultra-low capacity prices in PJM.

The scuttlebutt is that Dominion's blasting is part of a company expedition to locate El Dorado, the mythical "lost city of gold."

Community notice before blasting could garner too many nosey neighbors that might try to lay claim to Dominion's hoped-for treasure, therefore, residents should remain in their homes and expect random explosions to continue to rock their world, and clear shelves of fragile items, until PJM's markets recover.
 
 
A settlement has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the matter of recovery of costs of PJM's failed Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) project.

MAPP was one of four unnecessary transmission projects proposed by PJM in their Project Mountaineer initiative to increase the use of coal-fired resources by shipping 5,000MW of coal-fired electricity from the Ohio Valley to the East coast.  Of these 4 projects (MAPP, PATH, TrAIL and Susquehanna Roseland), two have been cancelled, one has been completed, and one is under construction.  The only difference between them is timing and execution by their owners.

All four of these projects took advantage of newly-minted transmission project incentives available from FERC, brought to you by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  One of the incentives granted to these projects was the guaranteed recovery of prudently-incurred project investment in the event the project was abandoned and not built through no fault of the owner.

Therefore, once MAPP was abandoned, its owner, Pepco, filed with FERC for permission to recover its investment in the unbuilt project.  Unrecovered investment included capital expense "construction work in progress" costs, which is roughly defined as all expenses for electric projects under construction, including such items as land purchased, labor, engineering and regulatory costs.  The amount Pepco filed to recover was $87.5M.

Because some parties intervened and protested the recovery, FERC set the matter for settlement and hearing.  A settlement was reached and recently approved by the Commission.

The settlement allows Pepco to recover $80.5M in abandonment costs over a three year period, and allows the company to maintain ownership of all land and land rights purchased as part of the project.  However, Pepco must remove the land from its rate base (capital account) that earns a yearly return paid by all electric consumers in the PJM region.

In its cost recovery filing, Pepco valued its land acquisition activities at $38.1M, although actual land values would most likely be much less.  So, how much land did Pepco buy for MAPP that the company now owns free and clear?
Converter station sites in Calvert and Wicomico County, MD and Sussex
County, DE were acquired;

Takeoff points into and out of the Chesapeake Bay were acquired;

Transition station locations in Dorchester County were acquired; and

Transmission line right-of-way for entire length was acquired, except for one property in Dorchester County where negotiation was pending.
Looks like Pepco has enough land to concoct another unnecessary transmission project at ratepayer expense, and it looks like Pepco still holds these landowners' lives in limbo under the threat of building a transmission line across their properties.  Let this be a lesson to you... do NOT sign right-of-way agreements early in the process, before a project is approved and receives a permit from all states through which it is routed.

Ratepayers in 14 states will remember PJM's failed Project Mountaineer as they pay off Pepco's unbuilt MAPP debt in their electric bills for the next three years.
  Thanks, PJM!



 
 
Regulation vs. deregulation debates pop up from time-to-time.  I think the last one I participated in was presented as a way to "fix" Potomac Edison's billing & meter reading transgressions through competition.  Of course, deregulation doesn't change your local electric company that meters and bills your service, it simply changes your generation supplier, so deregulation is, once again, useless as a solution.

I've had people swear to me that deregulation saves consumers money, but my research has actually revealed the opposite.  Deregulation, an invention of our friends at Enron, actually costs consumers money.  Deregulation inserts a middleman between you and the generator, and that middle man wants to get paid.  While some may argue that the middleman can insert competition into a monopoly situation to result in savings, that's unlikely to happen.  The monopoly is prohibited by regulation from the kind of usurious rate gouging that goes on in deregulated markets.  Being from West Virginia I say this with a smirk on my face, because I am also unconvinced that our regulators actually have consumer interests in mind, and believe they will look the other way, or even encourage, regulated rip-offs of captive customers by out-of-state electric conglomerates.

Electric consumers in Pennsylvania's deregulated electricity market are up in arms because the state's regulators have not protected them from signing open ended variable rate contracts.  What did they think "deregulated" meant?  My experience has been that the average electric consumer is uneducated about his electric bill, the electric rates he pays, and the regulatory process, and he LIKES it that way!  It is only when a bill shows up that seems to be higher than normal that average electric Joe gets upset and demands that "someone" do something to lower his bill!

Pennsylvanians who signed variable rate contracts with deregulated electric suppliers got slammed by PJM's markets during this year's "polar vortex."  Customers received bills hundreds of dollars higher than normal because their middleman may have been locked into power purchase contracts that didn't adequately protect against price spikes caused by generator outages and high demand for natural gas to generate electricity.  And, it's probably going to get worse.  At its earnings call last week, FirstEnergy made it clear that the company's future power purchase contracts will contain language that passes this volatility through to customers:
Steve Fleishman - Wolfe
And in the future, do most of your contracts have that clause, so new ones do or not older ones or vice versa?

Leila Vespoli - EVP, Markets, and Chief Legal Officer
I think it would be safe to say that we are going to be adding that language where we can in the future.
Neither the generator, nor the middleman, wants to absorb the cost of PJM's market failure so it will always be passed on to the deregulated customer because no one is protecting average electric Joe in a deregulated environmment.  FERC and PJM fail to realize that those poor, persecuted generators who were required to operate at a loss for a few hours or days due to the price cap are making money hand over fist every other day of the year.  Pay to play, little generators!

FERC compounded the problem by allowing these greedy corporate entities to further game PJM's malfunctioning markets.  FERC has allowed generators to charge whatever they want, and is in denial about any "harm" that may result: 
FERC said PJM's proposal met the commission's criteria for approving waivers, as doing so would remedy a "concrete problem," would not harm third parties and would be limited in scope.
Maybe affected customers in Pennsylvania should send FERC a copy of their outrageous "concrete problem" bills so they can make note of the harm PJM's markets have caused to real people. 

Deregulation sounds great in theory, but it rarely saves the consumer money in the real world.
 
 
"Big green" has been hoodwinked into operating under a misguided premise by "big wind."  Environmental groups that support certain transmission lines simply because they have been told the lines are "carrying wind power and clean renewable energy" have defined themselves as the biggest hypocrites.

When asked about transmission in a recent interview by E&E, the Environmental Law & Policy Center's Howard Lerner panned transmission lines "for coal," while promoting lines "for wind."
From an environmental group perspective we're very interested and supportive of those lines if they're carrying wind power and clean renewable energy, as some of them are saying that they're doing.
Lerner knows quite well that transmission must be "open access" for all types of generation.  Transmission lines can't segregate "green" electrons from "brown" ones.  There is no such thing as a transmission line "for wind."

To add to the hypocrisy, Lerner later talks up distributed generation:
Distributed generation, particularly solar, plays a vital role in terms of reliability, cleaning up the air and saving money for consumers. The efficiencies of solar panels are going up, the costs are coming down, and those entities that are getting behind it I think will be in good shape. People who are trying to stop the progress technologically when it comes to solar are going to be like the utilities that had landline telephones that tried to stop wireless telecommunications. It almost never works to stand in the way of technological progress.
Environmental groups that support new long distance transmission "for wind" are trying to stop the progress of distributed generation technology.  Of course, this effort to thwart technology won't be effective.  What if we poured all the money currently being wasted on centralized generation and transmission lines "for wind" into distributed solar instead?  How reliable and cost effective would that be?

Howard also demonstrates how hookwinked he is about the cost to ratepayers of new transmission "for wind."
Well, renewable energy wind power can bring costs down. Building new transmission of course passes costs on to consumers. Some of the transmissions being used for renewables, some of that transmission is being used for coal. So what you have to do is not look at it as one size fits all, but look at particular transmission lines and really say, No. 1, are the costs justified? Are the benefits greater than the costs, and therefore you can build a line? Or had the world changed in which a particular transmission line, and there are a number of lines that are being challenged on this basis, given the demand has gone down is there less need for the lines, they shouldn't be built? Secondly the question is is the line carrying renewable energy like wind power, or is it carrying coal and natural gas? The premise of what the Midwest independent system operator did is that these transmission lines, they call them the MVP lines, are supposed to be carrying wind power. Some of them do, some of them don't very much. And that's going to be an issue both before the regional commissions and also an issue before FERC.
So, in Howard's world, the cost argument is secondary only to determining if a transmission line is being used for renewables or for coal?  How does he make this determination?  Do his transmission developer friends tell him which ones are which? 

I don't think Howard cares how much transmission costs as long as someone tells him it is "for wind."  Environmental groups are not very good advocates for consumer prices, so maybe they should stop trying to influence transmission development to meet their environmental goals.  I'd feel a lot more comfortable if transmission was planned by grid planners, and not environmentalists, or politicians.  Let the grid planners plan the grid guided by what the users of the grid want, not by what is environmentally desirable, politically expedient, or profitable for private investors.

But being seen as hypocritical by the consumers who pay for it all doesn't seem to bother these folks, as I saw demonstrated during a recent "webinar" by Big Wind's Big Front group.  During the webinar, both the representative from regional grid planner PJM Interconnection, and the representative from the Rocky Mountain Institute, pointed out that the decision has not been made whether to pursue a big, new grid build out "for wind," or whether a localized, distributed generation future that does not require a whole bunch of new transmission would be more prudent.  In fact, their presentations proffered information that a distributed generation future is highly likely, and more cost effective.  But, never to allow reality to intrude on their fantasies, the environmental group and the "clean" transmission developer plowed presumptively right ahead with their "for wind" presentations, like the decision had already been made.

But, that's okay.  The ones who actually make the decisions don't listen to the environmental groups or the transmission developers, they just pat them on the head and carry on with business.  I think it might be pretty frustrating for the poor, little cleaniacs.

In the end, technology cannot be stopped by the financial wants of developers, or the pipe dreams of environmental idealists
.  Hold the line, transmission opponents, the future is bright!

 
 
Another quarter, another FirstEnergy earnings call.

Heavy sigh.

They sounded like they were all on some sort of doggie downer while reading their scripts for the first half of the call.  It was only when the line was thrown open to questions that the party started.

Stupid business buzz word for this quarter:  "glide path."  Ex.  FirstEnergy sees its glide path to riches dotted with the corpses of its customers.

It seems that FirstEnergy is about to take one in the shorts because much of its generation was offline during the polar vortex and it had to purchase power.  Very expensive power.  FirstEnergy also expects to be hit with a bundle of PJM charges resulting from the vortex, but that's okay, the company expects to either drop them on regulated customer doorsteps, stick it to competitive customers through contracts, or simply whine to PJM and FERC about the unfairness of it all.  When asked (repeatedly) to put a ballpark number on this, Tony the Trickster avoided the question.

Heavy sigh.

FirstEnergy expects 80% of its earnings to come from its regulated business in the future.  That includes FirstEnergy's new found love of transmission upgrades.  Once again, FirstEnergy puts all its eggs in one basket.  Ooooh!  Shiny object!  Transmission spend!

Does anyone but FirstEnergy really think that milking regulated customers for transmission upgrades of questionable necessity isn't going to run into a regulatory buzz saw?  My Magic 8 Ball tells me "it is certain."  Maybe Tony needs to get a Magic 8 Ball to help him run the company?

Heavy sigh.


FirstEnergy is all ticked off about PJM's markets not working.  What they mean is that the markets are not working to make FirstEnergy a bundle of money.  But, FirstEnergy seem intent on making a regulatory nuisance of itself
.

Heavy sigh.

One more thing before I go....

This is a vocabulary lesson for Leila:

The word you were searching for is exacerbate
.

exacerbate |igˈzasərˌbāt|
verb [ with obj. ]
make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse: the forest fire was exacerbated by the lack of rain.


Here's a link where you can hear the word pronounced.


The word is not pronounced "exasperate."  These are examples of incorrect usage:

"The situation with market power prices in January was a product of base load generation that was stretched to its limit and exasperated by gas units that were impacted by constrain gas transmission and high spot trading prices."

"The fact that JCP already has the lowest rate in the state of New Jersey, which again further exasperates the consequence of that."

Leila's misuse of exacerbate exasperates me.

Heavy sigh.

 
 
Zacks Investment Research sent a love note to our favorite transmission-dependent electric utilities on Valentine's Day.

In a commentary about the utilities sector, Zacks advised transmission lovers that they're about to become obsolete:
The emergence of Microgrids for power generation could threaten the dominance of the age-old power distribution system in the U.S. Microgrids have evolved from simple power backup systems to small smart grids. The swift and cost effective installation of Micro grids could help distribute electricity among the masses. These rooftop solar systems meet the energy needs of the customers. In addition, the customers are allowed to sell excess power back to the utilities.
A report from American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that utilities need to spend $763 billion by 2040 to properly modernize and harden the existing grids against natural disasters. We believe that rather than going for a very costly maintenance, it will be economical to develop these Microgrids, which could lend support to the existing system.
That's right, instead of building more transmission it will be more economical to develop more secure microgrids.

A microgrid is defined as:
A microgrid is a localized grouping of electricity generation, energy storage, and loads that normally operates connected to a traditional centralized grid (macrogrid). This single point of common coupling with the macrogrid can be disconnected. The microgrid can then function autonomously. Generation and loads in a microgrid are usually interconnected at low voltage. From the point of view of the grid operator, a connected microgrid can be controlled as if it were one entity.
Microgrid generation resources can include fuel cells, wind, solar, or other energy sources. The multiple dispersed generation sources and ability to isolate the microgrid from a larger network would provide highly reliable electric power. Produced heat from generation sources such as microturbines could be used for local process heating or space heating, allowing flexible trade off between the needs for heat and electric power.
Wow!  What a great idea, right?

Just one more warning shot across the investor owned electric utility bow.  Transmission is a dead end.  Save yourself, utility friends!  After all, if my favorite utilities die, who am I going to pick on in my spare time?
 
 
Iowa legislators have had enough Rock Island Clean Line.  In January, legislation to limit the use of eminent domain was introduced, spurred by RICL's proposal to take nearly 400 miles of right-of-way in the state.
The target of their legislation is the Rock Island Clean Line, a $2 billion, 500-mile overhead direct current transmission line.

Rogers called private property rights “critically important to our way of life.”

“Many farmers in my district live and work on land that has been in their family for generations, and they want to allow their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to continue to farm that land and feed the world,” Rogers said. “Our laws must adequately protect their property rights.”
One bill requires that any power line project requesting eminent domain authority must deliver at least 25% of its power to consumers in Iowa.  RICL intends to export power from northwest Iowa direct to eastern Illinois, where it will be interconnected with PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator for mid-Atlantic eastern states.

The second bill requires legislative approval of any request to bifurcate an application for a transmission project in order to separate the determination of need from the request for eminent domain authority.  RICL tried to use bifurcation to force landowners into a weak negotiating position for rights-of-way, but was rejected by the Iowa Utilities Board.

Be sure to check the lobbyist declarations on both these bills.  Clean Line doesn't appear to be happy about them.  I suppose fair is fair though... Iowans don't seem to be very happy about RICL, either.

I wonder if our Clean Line heroes envisioned this kind of opposition when planning their get-rich-quick power line scheme back in 2011?  I've heard it said that they gleefully dismissed any possibility of trouble, expecting nothing more than "a couple of ticked off farmers."  Personally, I'd never want to tick off any farmers.  They have pitchforks.  And I like the food they grow.

And speaking of eminent domain, legislators in Missouri are livid over the Arkansas Public Service Commission's approval of a SWEPCO transmission route through 25 miles of Missouri.  Within 10 days of the APSC decision, legislators had proposed:
The bill states that “the Missouri Public Service commission shall lack jurisdiction to approve the construction of any electric facilities to be built in accordance with Arkansas Public Service Commission Order 33, Docket Number 13-041-U, authorizing Route 109 as a ‘reasonable route’ for the construction of new three hundred forty-five kilovolt electric transmission lines.”
The overbuilding of new transmission of questionable necessity as a utility or investor profit center has finally gone too far.  The people have had enough of this nonsense and their elected representatives are taking action.  This transmission craze is now making it difficult to build ANY transmission, even that which may actually be needed.  Their cash cow is down and slowly bleeding to death, and it's their own fault.  Ooops.
 
 
Rob Danielson of SOUL of Wisconsin, and Deb Severson of Citizens' Energy Task Force, are asking state regulators to join them in supporting financially and environmentally sustainable energy solutions.

In a recent editorial in The Wisconsin State Journal, the pair of ratepayer advocates is asking the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to make utilities accountable for the financial and community costs of building more transmission, and for using the term “reliability” so loosely that ratepayers are led to think these lines are about “keeping the lights on.”

Danielson and Severson contend that energy efficiency contributes to grid reliability by reducing stress on the grid. Efficiency is also the best way to save ratepayers’ money and reduce our carbon footprint. It has no negative impacts, other than reducing utility profits.

Utilities and state regulators need to acknowledge how cost-effective it is to shave peak-demand during those very limited hours in the summer or winter when demand spikes — and that this, too, increases grid reliability. Paying customers to turn off their air conditioners for 15 minutes, or an industrial customer to use back-up diesel, makes far more economic sense than spending billions to add wires to bring in rarely needed extra power. Energy spikes can also be addressed by adding local renewables, which have the added benefit of creating additional local, ongoing jobs.

There are many ways to address need without building new transmmission, and Danielson and Severson are asking for equal consideration of them. Consumers are demanding that ratepayer and community interests — not utility and Wall Street profits — drive our future transmission planning decisions.