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Organization OKs $1.8 billion electricity transmission line

June 27, 2007|By KAREN HANNA

TRI-STATE - A new transmission line that would reduce the risk of blackouts as electricity demand increases has been authorized by an organization that coordinates the movement of energy.

The Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) transmission line would carry 765 kilovolts of electricity from a substation near St. Albans, W.Va., in southeast West Virginia through the existing substation at Bedington, W.Va., to a new substation in Kemptown, Md.

The project's approximately $1.8 billion cost will be passed to consumers, but Allegheny Energy spokesman Allen Staggers said the company and American Electric Power, which will share a portion of the new 290 miles of lines, have not determined how the tab will be split.

PJM Interconnection authorized the new line at a board meeting Friday. Paula DuPont-Kidd, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit agency, which coordinates the movement of large amounts of energy in Washington, D.C., and 13 states, said the project will accommodate energy demands from the growth of the digital economy and anticipated commercial and residential construction.

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Without the new transmission line, the current system could be overloaded by 2012, causing problems for customers served in the region, as well as the potential for cascading blackouts in other areas, DuPont-Kidd said.

DuPont-Kidd characterized the transmission line as being on the "higher end of the scale in terms of the amount of voltage." Most of the projects PJM authorizes involve lines carrying 230 to 500 kilovolts of electricity, she said.

"It's not everyday that somebody builds a 765-kV line," DuPont-Kidd said.

The project must be approved by other regulatory agencies, including state and local governments, DuPont-Kidd said.

Staggers said all of the customers in PJM's zone likely will be responsible for the cost of the project. Because of the bulk of the line will serve Allegheny Energy customers, the company will be responsible for financing about $1.2 billion toward the project.

Staggers said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have to approve a cost-sharing plan between Allegheny Energy and American Electric Power.

"It will become part of people's rate over time, but that time period, it's still a couple of years out, for sure," Staggers said.

Staggers said the first work on the project - determining the exact routing of the lines - can begin at any time. He said he did not know when construction will start.

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