Yesterday, Sierra Club announced that it opposes PPL's "Project Compass," at least the parts that it thinks will carry "dirty" energy.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said his group "will definitely oppose" the section in that state.

Tittel said the Sierra Club's opposition is "absolutely" a challenge to the existing business model for utilities, which often rely on far-off plants to send power into populated areas.

Tittel said the PPL proposal is like "frack by wire" because the proposed route across northern Pennsylvania would encourage new power plants fueled by hydraulically fractured Marcellus Shale gas.
But what about the sections that environmental NGOs think will carry "clean" wind energy from the Midwest?  How is Sierra Club going to support the western parts of this project without connecting them to the eastern parts that deliver the load?
Tom Schuster, a regional Sierra Club representative, said the group hasn't taken a position on the entire project because there are still too many unknowns.
Meanwhile in Midwest states, Sierra Club is supporting new transmission lines intended to move electricity hundreds of miles across multiple states.  Aren't those also transmission lines that rely on far-off plants to send power into populated areas?  Yes, they are.
Environmentalists who testified said they support the [Grain Belt Express] plan. James Harmon of Kirksville, a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Missouri Chapter, said it would help Missouri and other states meet the new federal goals for reducing carbon emissions.
DILEMMA!

This is what happens when your policies are hypocritical.  Either you like big new transmission "for wind" (and everything else they carry), or you don't.  There are no "electron police" standing by to keep dirty electrons off new transmission lines.
Hello, left hand... let me introduce you to right hand.  May you two have a long and hypocritical life together!

So, how does Sierra Club want to plan our electric grid?  This is what happens when you let a bunch of "public policy" wonks have a seat at the table.  It doesn't sound like there's any real plan at work here.

Meanwhile, equally silly arguments about "mine mouth" gas plants hijack
the reporter's attention:
Jay Apt, director of the Carnegie Mellon University Electricity Industry Center, said that enormous natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale has led to significantly cheaper wholesale prices in areas of drilling. In other words, a power plant could produce electricity cheaply in Pennsylvania and a utility could transmit it to places with higher electric prices, such as Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.
Ever heard of a gas pipeline, Jay?  Gas can be transported to plants that burn it in places with higher electric prices.  You're going to have to transport something somewhere, and what's easier to get permitted?  A FERC-jurisdictional gas pipeline, or a state-jurisdictional 725-mile high voltage transmission line that meanders through four very urban states?  We all know that FERC has never met a gas pipeline it didn't like.
PJM says what it always says -- because when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  PJM never changes, no matter how many new rules get made.  PJM simply finds a way to bend the new rules to continue to support its generation and transmission incumbents.
PJM Interconnection of Audubon, Pennsylvania, which oversees wholesale electric demand for 61 million customers in a 13-state mid-Atlantic region, has said that the electric grid is "undergoing an extraordinary transformation" as coal-fired plants retire.

 PJM could approve all, part, or none of the PPL plan, but regulators agree that the region needs transmission upgrades to ensure reliable and affordable electric service. Allentown-based PPL said the line would take about a decade to build.
Dotter goes... doddering... on making silly analogies:
PJM spokesman Ray Dotter said it's like a huge version of the dilemma many individuals face: Is the most effective thing to buy a new car, or fix the old one you have?
The PPL plan is like the new car choice. PJM will review the proposal and is likely to vote on it in November or December, and is also considering numerous smaller projects from other utilities.
So, if PJM decides to buy PPL a new car, are they planning to trade in the old car?  Or do PJM and PPL intend to continue driving that old, inefficient car AND the brand new one?  New transmission that ignores current inefficiencies and outdated equipment simply adds to the problem, it does not solve it.

Then Tittel says something sensible:
"We have better places to invest our energy money" in or near in New Jersey, Tittel said, such as offshore wind, solar, and energy efficiency projects. He added that if money was spent in those ways "you wouldn't need the power line."
I hope this means that Tittel will now be supporting smart, new local transmission projects in New Jersey!

But, just in case the Sierra Club simply continues to flap its arms ineffectually and contradict itself, the citizens of the affected states will most likely be the REAL opposition that kills PPL's transmission project.

The citizens have each other's back, because they can't count on organizations like the Sierra Club to deliver a coherent message about new electric transmission.

We always show up to get the job done!

So, with that in mind, PJM wants to hear your comments about "Project Compass."  Tell them what you think.
 


Comments

Morgan Kinder
08/21/2014 6:59pm

It's understanable New England states are energy deficient. It's kind of the end of the line for pipelines and a major urban center. They partially rely on heating oil when the rest of the country has abandoned it a long time ago. Like Europe, they are dependent on Vladimir Putin for Compressed Natural Gas. Last winter electricity generators had to shut down so residents could use natural gas for heating.

I've read where NE-ISO recommends transmission to the Midwest for renewable energy. That seems real foolish when what they really need is the diversity of more natural gas. Manufacturing needs cheap energy, not high priced energy from transmission from a land far far away.

I don't support unnecessary utility projects, but it would seem a pipeline provides more versatility than transmission. As a Midwest farmer with multiple pipelines through fields, I would much rather see an additional pipeline project headed east, than a transmission project. A natural gas pipeline will encourage more manufacturing jobs out east.

Paying excessively for energy made by Midwest wind discourages economic growth at the destination.

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Morgan
08/21/2014 7:01pm

There is a lot of truth in that song. FERC is a rubberstamp machine. While effectively corny, that song does stick in my head. I need to share it with some of my Houston friends.

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