Mirant Plant Showdown Prompts Efforts to Expand Transmission in D.C.

In the latest version of its Regional Transmission Expansion Plan, the PJM Interconnection announced support for an additional $297 million in transmission upgrades, including $70 million for new transmission lines needed for the nation's capital.  Adequacy of available power supply became an issue in the greater District of Columbia (DC) metro area late last summer when Mirant announced it was shutting down its 482-MW, coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Virginia because of air emissions.  The DC Public Service Commission (PSC) petitioned FERC and the Department of Energy (DOE) to prevent the shutdown.  See Reliability v. Health: Neighboring States Battle over Dirty but Needed Generator.

Following a brief shutdown, the Mirant plant resumed limited operations.  The shutdown, however, focused attention on the need to increase power supply to the DC area.  In October, Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO)  "• the utility serving DC "• filed an emergency petition for authorization from the DC PSC to construct two 230 kV underground and two 69 kV overhead transmission lines.  PEPCO cited as an emergency the uncertainty about the future of the Mirant plant, and asked the DC PSC to waive certain procedural requirements so that the transmission lines could be constructed on an expedited basis.  PEPCO earlier had supported the DC PSC's petition to FERC and DOE. 

The DC PSC has yet to issue any substantive orders in response to PEPCO's petition, but the D.C. Office of the People's Counsel recently sounded in with its concerns, arguing that the DC PSC should move expeditiously but also adhere to its normal permitting process for the proposed transmission projects, which entails extensive intra-government consultation and community outreach.  Meanwhile, the future of the Mirant plant remains unresolved.