PEC Still Pursues Fight against Big Grid

The Piedmont Environmental Council case against the high-voltage transmission line across the Northern Virginia piedmont is still alive and kicking.

First, the PEC scored a victory in the Fourth Circuit Appeals. This comes straight from a PEC email update:

“The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond yesterday released its decision in a case brought by the Piedmont Environmental Council, multiple States and parties, regarding rules set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in implementing the Energy Policy Act of 2005. “The decision directly upholds a State’s right to reject a transmission line project without fear of the federal government stepping in to overrule that State’s determination. In plain language, the utilities do not get a second chance if the State rejects a line based upon the merits,” said Christopher G. Miller, PEC President.”

Second, the latest numbers for electricity demand fall short of the projections that Dominion used to justify construction of the power line, the PEC contends. Reports the Fauquier Times-Democrat:

“Economic data from the Federal Reserve of Richmond to PJM’s own data and forecasts highlight that the evidence and rationale for” the line “no longer exists” … Miller said in a statement. “Why should Virginia taxpayers be forced to pay for something that is not needed?”

The online version of the Times-Democrat story does not say what that data is, nor does it include a response from Dominion.

Miller said the SCC should reconsider its October 2008 approval of the transmission line, based as it was on now-outdated data.

A host of new technologies are in the development pipeline that could transform the electric power industry, moving it decisively away from the Big Grid model of remote power plants connected to population centers by huge transmission lines to a Distributed Grid model based upon a “smart” grid and smaller, more numerous power sources in and near the population centers. The current recession, which is more severe than anyone predicted a year ago, undoubtedly will crimp NoVa electricity demand. That could buy time to put into place new energy conservation programs, renewable energy resources and the regulatory structure to tie it all together without the need to build the expensive and intrusive power line.

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9 responses to “PEC Still Pursues Fight against Big Grid”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    PEC? You mean the Quixote Admirtion Society?

    I support some aspects of a more distributed grid, but it isn’t going to be the only answer. And, it will nevr happen as long as the NIMBY’s resist power plants of any kind in their OWN neighborhood.

    As I recall, PPEC was opposed to a small natural gas peaking power plant in Fauquier county, until they got several million for conservation easements for dropping their opposition.

    Funny how the greens are opposed to paying polluters not to pollute, but they don’t seem to have a problem with being paid not to sue.


  2. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim Bacon:

    Good points but:

    The falling demand (and recession) result in no capital for alternative systems, and

    The renewable sources are disaggregated and dispursed while the demand is aggregaded and focused.

    WaPo had a nice coverage of this on Tuesday (Alternative Energy Still Facing Headwinds)

    And then this:

    The only was to significantly cut demand is functional settlement patterns and intelligent buildings serving more than one use.

    MIUS anyone?


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “The falling demand (and recession) result in no capital for alternative systems, and…”

    The alternative systems aren’t being funded by dominion, for the most part they will be competing companies selling pwoer to Dominion at subsidized prices.

    What is more important is that falling demand (probably only temporary, as a result of the recession) also means lower prices for conventional fuels. At those low prices alternaitves are far less competitive and need far larger subsidies.


    “The renewable sources are disaggregated and dispersed while the demand is aggregated and focused.”

    The second half of that, the demand part, is only partly true, otherwise we would not be worried so much about “sprawl”. And we have a lot more cities than we have good places to collect renewables so the demand is at least as dispersed as the supply.

    If we do need more space to collect renewables, then there is less need to compress the cities more in a vain attempt to be “more efficient” and as a distorted way of subsidizing mass transit, etc. etc.

    And, actually the renewable resources tend to be most active in a few locations: there is a wind belt, a solar belst and ocean locations with high tidal activity or high wave activity. But the best locations for collecting renewable resources may not be the ones where most people live or would want to live (searing deserts, violent oceanfront, windy high plains), so we will need to have both lots of long distance transmisson facilities and lots of backup power, both of which increase the cost of renewables and decreasethe utility. (Once you build backup power facilities, why not use them and get your money invested returned sooner?

    Green criticas are already complaining about plans to convert huges swaths of desert into solar collectors, and they say we should make a distributed renewable power system with more and smaller generating units placed atop existing buildings and other structures, in order to preserve the desert habitat.

    As usual, there is no discussion of the relative costs. We just assume the desert is worth whatever price it costs our cities.


    As usual EMR has his facts and economics wrong, and then misses the boat by drawing the wrong (but pre-ordained) conclusion.

    We are not going to cut demand. We will have more people using more power for more purposes, even if they are using it more efficiently than previously for similar practices.

    If we instituted every possible conservation measure tomaorrow,then the day after tomorrow demand would start to rise again. and the day after that we would be back facing the same problems we have now: NIMBYism, property rights, pollution, and eminent domain.


  4. “Why should Virginia taxpayers be forced to pay for something that is not needed?”

    Good question. Why would Virginia taxpayers pay for any of Dominion’s assets? Doesn’t Dominion pay for its transmission lines?

  5. If I understand PEC’s basic thesis correctly – they are not saying that the lines are not needed to serve current existing usage.

    They are arguing that we need to use less.. to move on to better, more efficient technologies – which I agree with.

    and.. they are basically saying to force the issue by restricting further construction of generation and distribution facilities to serve growth – at existing per capita usage levels.

    Basically, the same argument used by environmental groups…

    i.e. let’s “force” people to use less electricity so that we won’t need new plants and more power lines…..

    and that’s a politically unsustainable approach IMHO.

    What politician is going to essentially tell his/her constituents that they are going to work to prevent building more plants and power lines to force everyone to use less electricity and/or pay more for it.

    My question: are we to take such an approach as a realistic path … equitable solution?

    or have I got this all balled up as usual?

    BTW – I’ve been down in Ga for a few days scouting out rivers for a 5 day canoe camper.

    Technology is grand. I’m using what is known as an “air card” and I’ve managed to stay online most everywhere I go ..even at 55 mph…. which makes finding and reserving campgrounds and motels a breeze…!!!!

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I use an air card because it is theonly access I have, out in the sticks.

    I hope you are not driving while using yours.


    Doesn’t Dominion pay for its transmission lines?

    No, because they get right of way at a fraction of it’s value based on prior uses, and thefact that the same judges that grant ED also get to set the values.


    “et’s “force” people to use less electricity so that we won’t need new plants and more power lines…..

    and that’s a politically unsustainable approach IMHO.”

    BINGO. If it is politically unsustainable, it is economically unsustainable, and ultimately environmentally unsustainable.

    Equality, Economy, Envronment.



  7. Anonymous Avatar

    If we move on to better and mroe efficient technologies we will wind up using MORE not less.

    The U.S. is already the fourth most efficient user of power, which is one reason we are able to afford to use so much.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Anybody want to hazard a guess as to which would have used moreenergy when complete, Disney’s History land or Haymarket when built out?


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    RE, the U.s. is already an efficient user of power.

    “In the last 37 years, manufacturing output in real dollars has more than doubled, while manufacturing employment has dropped by more than 26%, resulting in an almost tripling of the amount of manufacturing output per manufacturing worker in the U.S., from less than $80,000 in 1972 to almost $240,000 per worker today (see chart below).

    It’s certainly the case that the U.S. leads the world in overall manufacturing output, and it’s probably the case that when it comes to manufacturing output per person, nobody in the world comes close to the U.S. “

    Mike Perry, Profesor of Economics, University of Michigan.

    Yeah, Japan beats us on GDP per Kilowatt, but they don’t manufacture all that much.


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