PEPCO is falling down on the job

December 12th, 2010


Nearly two years ago, I attended a hearing for the Delmarva Power Integrated Resource Plan, which was the most bizarre hearing I’ve ever experienced.  At that time, I raised issues about decreasing demand, entered into the record the PJM demand documents that we’d used in the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission docket in New Jersey (also PJM), and raised concerns that no SAIDI, SAIFI and CAIDI reliability info was reported.  After that meeting, I presented Delmarva Power’s attorney Todd Goodman with a well-deserved “Horse’s Ass” award for his performance at that meeting.  The points I’d raised at that meeting about what was missing in their “IRP” were oh-so-valid:

Transcript – Delmarva IRP Hearing December 3 2008

It took a while, but last week, the Washington Post featured an article showing that PEPCO, utility in D.C. and Maryland, and the corporate parent of Delmarva Power, has an inexcusably miserable record for outages.   That’s something that’s demonstrated in the SAIDI, SAIFI and CAIDI reports!  And folks, don’t go conflating transmission with distribution as the cause for the outages, as utilities would have you do.  Anyway, here’s that article:

Washington Post Analysis: Why PEPCO can’t keep the lights on

PEPCO executives acknowledge need to improve reliability

As you read the article, note there’s not a word on D-E-R-E-G-U-L-A-T-I-O-N as a contributory factor, much less the primary reason.

Washington Post analysis: Why Pepco can’t keep the lights on

By Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 12:38 AM

In high-powered Washington, one of the world’s most wired and connected metro areas, the region’s leading electric company has trouble just keeping the lights on.

Pepco delivers power to 778,000 customers in the District and neighboring parts of Maryland, including some of the most affluent communities and most important institutions in the nation. But in reliability studies, the company ranks near the bottom in keeping the power on and bringing it back once it goes out, an analysis by The Washington Post has found.

In fact, the average Pepco customer experienced 70 percent more outages than customers of other big city utilities that took part in one 2009 survey. And the lights stayed out more than twice as long.

Pepco’s reliability began declining five years ago, records show; company officials acknowledge that they have known of the problem but that they only started to focus on it more recently.

Moreover, Pepco has long blamed trees as a primary culprit for the frequency and duration of its outages, implying that the problem is beyond its control. But that explanation does not hold up under scrutiny, The Post analysis found. By far, Pepco equipment failures, not trees, caused the most sustained power interruptions last year.
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As seen on Hwy. 52 between the Zumbrota exits

Goodhue County is considering modifications of their wind ordinance, and have formed a committee to look at it with county planning staff.

CLICK HERE for the County’s wind page.

And here is the draft ordinance, in pdf’d Track Changes:

Article 18 draft revision 06-14-2010

Here is the report from the Rochester Post Bulletin:

First draft of Goodhue County’s new wind regulations proves unpopular

And from June 15th Beagle:

County seeks more time on wind proposal

We were there to address specifics about proposed changes, and the discussion was wide ranging.

Ben Kerl, National Wind/AWA Goodhue (or whatever their name may be today!) made some astounding statements yesterday.  He actually said, regarding Goodhue County’s ordinance proposal for wind projects, where they proposed to require a copy of the Power Purchase Agreement, to demonstrate it’s not a vaporware project, to help assure “they wouldn’t build an empty building,” and he had the audacity to say that he objected to this requirement, and that he’d have to check with Xcel to see if it could be disclosed.  IF IT COULD BE DISCLOSED!!!

EXCUUUUUUUUSE MEEE?!?!  It’s already public information (redacted a tad-bit), it’s already a public document:

PPA – North Goodhue Wind

PPA – South Goodhue

The PPA provided in the PPA dockets would be sufficient to satisfy the county’s concerns.

That statement of Kerl’s was SO egregious I just couldn’t sit there and let it slide.

These PPAs above are from the Goodhue PPA dockets at the PUC.  To review the full PPA dockets:

  1. Go to; and
  2. Click on “search documents;” and
  3. Search for dockets 09-1348 and 09-1350 (they’re pretty much identical).

Oh, and we were discussing a Property Protection Plan as has been established in other jurisdictions, where the developer essentially guarantees that the property values will not be lower.   Steve Groth raised that issue, and of course Ben Kerl objected, and thought it essentially a black hole of liability that would quash funding.  I raised the “Buy the Farm” provision for transmission as something that is used in transmission to assure that if a landowner wants out, that they could do so.

CLICK HERE for  Minn. Stat. 216E.12 — “Buy the Farm” and go down to Subd. 4.

There’s more, but that requires a little background work, so stay tuned.  In the meantime…

Shame on you, Ben Kerl…


It’s so good to be home … for a second or so, that is, before the CapX 2020 Brookings public and evidentiary hearings start. For more on that, go to NoCapX 2020!

PJM’s Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway is in the news again… or is it PEPCO… or is it Delmarva Power… yes, another stupid transmission idea comin’ down the pike… it’s time to say NO! to transmission for coal!

Join the “No New Coal” brigade at the rally:

December 1 at 1 p.m.

Baltimore’s Preston Gardens Park

Don’t get confused by this map of MAPP — they’re now admitting that the part from Indian River to Salem “isn’t needed” and it’s only a matter of time before they figure out that a 500kV line to nowhere isn’t needed either.

From The Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s paper – YES! maybe there’s hope, maybe they’ll do a better job than we have:

MAPP and PATH: Time to draw the line

By Matt Dernoga

Updated: Monday, November 23, 2009

I have a minor suggestion for the utility companies. If you’re going to try to portray your attempts to build gigantic interstate transmission lines as a way to transfer renewable energy, don’t connect them to coal plants.

Coal power squared: That’s what Pepco Holdings Inc. is trying to sell us with the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway, along with Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power pushing the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline. MAPP is 150 miles long and starts at a coal-powered plant in Virginia, which crosses into this state and ends in Delaware, racing across the Chesapeake Bay in the process. PATH is 275 miles long, starts at one of the nation’s largest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in West Virginia and arrives in Kemptown, Md.

The motivation for both projects is pretty simple. The local electricity markets for these coal-fired power plants pay 6.63 cents a kilowatt hour in West Virginia and 9.1 cents in Virginia. There’s a considerable profit to be made by selling this power in a state such as Maryland, where the average market price is 13.45 cents a kilowatt hour.

I think that’s fine — profit is always the motivator — but the question is, what do ordinary people and not just companies get out of the deal?

If you like people, the residents who live in the way of the combined 425 miles of massive transmission lines would face upheaval from eminent domain due to the “right of way” for an approved transmission line. The people who live by the coal plants get to breathe more rarefied air. If you like nature, the lines would also cut across forests, a wildlife refuge and the Chesapeake Bay. If you like money, you’re in luck if you work for one of the utilities. Ratepayers will cover the $1.8 billion cost of PATH and $1.4 billion cost of MAPP. Is a sense of absurdity unavoidable?

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about these lines is they would lower the incentive for Maryland to use our enviable offshore wind resources. The U.S. Energy Department said the state has “outstanding” wind for power generation offshore, with breezes steadily averaging 18 to 20 mph and about 160 feet above the waves. This is about the height at which wind turbines would spin.

Earlier this year, the Interior Department declared that U.S. offshore wind resources could lead America’s clean energy revolution. Over 1,000 gigawatts of wind potential exists off of the Atlantic coast alone. It would be tremendous if the state could lead the way and tap into this clean energy source. Plus, I’d like to write about something we’re building that’s a good idea for a change.

Fortunately, citizens in states that will be impacted by these transmission lines have been rising up in opposition and demanding their public service commissions make decisions on MAPP and PATH in the interest of the public. State activists are looking to stop the importation of dirty coal power into the state by holding a rally Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. at Preston Gardens Park in Baltimore. Join them and help convince state legislators to make the right decision: No to new coal.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

Are people starting to get it?  Here’s another from the Diamondback:

Guest column: Toppling King Coal

By Krishna Amin

This state is one of the most forward-thinking in the nation in producing clean energy laws. With Gov. Martin O’Malley’s leadership on the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, the state government has taken a huge, culminating step forward in addressing the threat of global warming. However, with this one step forward, the state could be taking an equally or even greater step backward if the state government and Public Service Commission approves of the new ultra high-voltage power lines, the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway and the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline, from Delaware and West Virginia, respectively. These power lines are designed to carry electricity from coal plants to produce more power and are to pass through this state. If more coal-fired power is imported into the state through these power lines, the greenhouse gas reductions that GGRA is aimed to save would be deterred by increased emissions from the dirty energy-producing power plants. Instead of subsidizing dirty coal energy, the state should be encouraging an investment in clean energy and energy efficiency for the future.

These power lines, particularly MAPP, would bisect a sector of the Eastern Shore known for its environmental resources. This would jeopardize land with some of the most productive agricultural soils, forests with the highest carbon sequestration rates and the habitat of the highest concentration of endangered species on the Eastern Shore.

Furthermore, it would also have both aesthetic and environmental impacts on a few of the state’s greatest cultural resources, such as the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, as well as the proposed site for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park.

If dirty energy projects such as MAPP and PATH gain approval, then in the near future coal production will start to dwindle, the price of coal energy will inflate and state customers will be stuck paying high prices for an obsolete energy source while trying to find alternative energy solutions.

Rather than enabling energy production from dirty coal, the government should be focused on alternate options for energy that are renewable and do not have to be imported. This is why here on the campus, MaryPIRG has teamed up with Environment Maryland, the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to organize a “Down with King Coal!” campaign. Did you see those one-word flyers around the campus this week? MaryPIRG is working to raise awareness of the need to oppose plans for these power lines. We think in order to influence the public service commissions’ decisions, the governor should come out publicly in opposition to the power lines. The campaign has organized a rally to not only show public opposition to the power lines but also reinforce state residents’ commitment to clean energy solutions. The rally will be Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. in Preston Gardens Park in Baltimore. Join us in saying “Down with King Coal!”

Krishna Amin is a junior biochemistry major. She can be reached at krish121 at umd dot edu.


Horses Ass Award for South Dakota’s Senator John Thune.


Has he no shame?   Sen.  John Thune fired off this letter to the EPA when it filed objections to the Big Stone II air permit.  Whatever is he thinking?  That the regulations don’t apply to his pet project, despite the obvious emissions problems?

Here’s the letter:

The Honorable Lisa Perez Jackson
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Federal Building
January 28, 2009
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Room 3000
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:

It has recently come to my attention that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued some objections regarding the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) desire to renew the operating permit for the existing Big Stone Power Plant in South Dakota. As a strong proponent of expanding our commitment to addressing our nation’s energy challenges, I am writing to inquire about your Agency’s recent action, as well as how this objection impacts the Big Stone II project.

As you know, the United States is the world’s largest electricity consumer and is expected to remain that way for decades to come. In the Upper Midwest, experts predict several thousand megawatts of generation capacity are needed to meet our region’s growing energy demands. In responding to this challenge, five electric utilities have proposed building a 500-580-megawatt, coal-fired electric generation plant. The new facility would be built next to the existing 450-megawatt Big Stone Power Plant, located near Big Stone City, South Dakota. Four of these partners (Otter Tail Power Company, Heartland Consumers Power District, Montana-Dakota Utilities Company and Missouri River Energy Services) provide electricity to thousands of my constituents throughout South Dakota, and more than one million people when you total their services to individuals and businesses in four other states.

While the addition of Big Stone II will more than double the plant’s generation capacity, it will also utilize new technologies so that emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury from the two plants will be cleaner than the current, single plant. Big Stone II is also expected to emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide than existing coal-fired power plants in the region. Since President Obama indicated his readiness to “invest in low emissions coal plants” within his New Energy for America plan, I trust the Administration will support the efforts of these dedicated individuals who have committed their work, time and money on this project to ensure the region will have safe, reliable and affordable energy in the future.

This project is also crucial to our region’s increased commitment to wind energy development. As a United States Senator, I have endeavored to promote the advancement of wind energy in order to grow South Dakota’s economy and help meet our nation’s growing energy demands. One significant impediment to increasing wind energy production is the lack of transmission lines available to transfer this harnessed product to markets in need. Transmission upgrades that coincide with the construction of Big Stone II will also provide opportunities for the expansion of renewable wind energy in the region.

While I appreciate that permitting procedures under the Clean Air Act can be very complex, I understand that the South Dakota DENR has 90 days to submit a revised permit that meets the objections raised by your Agency. I am confident that the participating utilities and DENR will provide sufficient adjustments to the permit so the project is completed in an environmentally responsible manner that provides the electrical power essential to the region. Despite the claims by some advocacy groups, I sincerely hope the last-minute list of objections by EPA is not an attempt to derail this important and needed project.

I believe there is great potential in this undertaking by the five participating utilities. I look forward to hearing about your Agency’s role in moving this project forward, as it is essential to promoting economic growth and meeting the region’s energy demands, including expanded wind generation.

Kindest regards,

John Thune
United States Senator