CHARLESTON -– Citing several studies showing that West Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region may experience electrical reliability problems within the next five years, representatives of West Virginia's largest business and labor organizations have launched an effort to inform the public on both the need for updated transmission infrastructure and the potential economic benefits it can bring.
"We don't normally think about what it takes for the lights to come on when we flip the switch, we just expect they will," said Dan Larcamp, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute and an electrical industry expert. "While we can feel secure in knowing that the vast majority of the electricity we need is produced in our region, the electric system used to deliver that power is becoming increasingly stressed, which exposes it to increased reliability risk.
"Solutions, including new infrastructure and energy efficiency improvements, need to be identified and promptly implemented."
Larcamp said the region's interstate electric transmission system – a network of high-voltage transmission lines that carry electricity from power plants to businesses and homes – is aging and becoming more overloaded. This exposes customers to an increased risk of service interruptions should the main lines go out of service during periods when demand for electricity is at its highest.
The U.S. Department of Energy, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, and the PJM Interconnection (the independent organization responsible for the operation of the region's transmission facilities) have all stated that major investment in the region's electricity grid is one of the critical components necessary to maintain system reliability. PJM Interconnection, in its most recent report on the region's transmission system (February 2007), concluded that West Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states could face reliability issues as early as 2011 if several new backbone transmission lines aren't constructed.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation released a report Oct. 16 that found the enhancements now planned to the U. S. power grid may fail to keep pace with the nearly 18 percent growth in demand that is expected over the next decade.
Karen Price, Chairwoman of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council – an organization representing numerous state trade associations and businesses – said something neeeds to be done.
"Like roads, gas pipelines and other infrastructure critical to the success of an economy, West Virginia is in need of improvements to insure the reliability of its electric transmission system," Price said. "West Virginians for Reliable Power will work to educate the public not only on the severity of the situation, but also on the tremendous economic potential an updated system can provide to the state."
Roy Smith, Secretary-Treasurer of the West Virginia State Building & Construction Trades Council, agreed.
"While this is first and foremost an issue of electric reliability and security, the construction of new transmission infrastructure has the potential to lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of new West Virginia jobs and an increased tax base," Smith said.
Smith said West Virginians for Reliable Power is an organization committed to educating West Virginia citizens on the urgent need for an improved electric transmission infrastructure. A complete list of coalition members is provided on the following page. For additional information, or to join the coalition, visit www.ForReliablePower.org.