PJM is supposed to act as an independent party to wholesale electricity trading. Instead, the company is promoting questionable expansions of transmission lines that may be bad news for electric ratepayers.
There are some major conflicts of interest behind the PJM Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee. Many of the committee members are linked directly to FirstEnergy and FirstEnergy subsidiaries including FirstEnergy Solutions, Mon Power, West Penn Power, Potomac Edison, and TrAILCo. This is not an independent committee made up of members from diverse industries. Green energy companies and smart grid companies are not represented.
What’s the goal of TEAC? Congress and FERC have offered incentives for large transmission projects. So it makes sense that utilities and energy companies would join forces to serve their best interests. The TEAC is an organized way for the major electric utilities to plan their expansion of transmission lines. But they are not acting in the best interests of ratepayers.
The TEAC’s purpose is to prepare a comprehensive plan to expand electric transmission systems. But will the new transmission lines they propose even be necessary? Or are they simply a means to greater profits and not in the best interest of the public?
Major utilities have no incentive to promote renewable power or smart grid solutions. Their business model is to control the means of production and distribution for electricity. In addition to utilities gaining a virtual monopoly on power distribution, prices on electricity can be jacked up at the will of utilities and energy traders. By pushing large interstate transmission lines, electricity can be traded coast to coast. Several major investment banks are already being investigated by FERC on charges of manipulating electricity prices.
The TEAC should represent the renewable sector as well. There is a lack of board members from green energy companies. Solar and wind companies in addition to smart grid companies should have their voices heard. FERC should not be incentivizing major transmission projects if they are unnecessary and especially if they are detrimental to ratepayers.
Smart grid solutions should be at the forefront of our national energy conversation. Solar and wind are viable alternatives to conventional power generation. In addition to higher efficiency and reduced carbon emissions, renewable power offers the added benefit of local generation. Local solar and wind farms can serve power to local microgrids and reduce our dependence on long-distance transmission projects that only serve the interests of major utility companies.