I thought, with all the progress being made, it would be a good idea to post an update of the energy/electricity situation in Maryland.
So what's happened? Actually, not much. While there has been some slight progress, we are mostly standing still as demand continues to grow. Let's take a quick look at some of the data (most of this data comes from a June, 2008 report by the Maryland Public Service Commision).
Maryland continues to be a large importer of electricity, importing about 30% of its needs. On an absolute basis, Maryland is the fourth largest electric energy importer in the United States, exceeded only by California, New Jersey and Virginia. Delaware and DC are also large importers meaning that the mid-atlantic area is heavily dependent on imports from other states - primarily to the west. As I've reported before, due to lack of generating capacity and already congested transmission facilities, the PJM power interconnection has warned of the posssibility of brownouts in the area beginning in 2011 - that's three years away.
Only 22 percent of Maryland's total generating capacity of about 12,500 megawatts has been built in the past 20 years. More than two-thirds of our generating capacity is more than 30 years old. While electricity demand and consumption in the mid-atlantic area is expected to grow, several older plants are scheduled for retirement within the next four years, including the Buzzards Point and Benning Road plants in DC.
There are some bright spots. The PSC and Constellation Energy appear to have settled their spat and are cooperating in a number of areas. The Governor is supporting construction of new power plants in Maryland, including the proposed Constellation/Unistar nuclear plant in Calvert County (1640 megawatts) and the Competitive Power Venture natural gas plant in Charles County (645 megawatts). If all goes well, the latter could be on line by the end of 2010.
The Baltimore/Washington area continues to be affected by relatively high transmission costs due to lack of adequate transmission facilities. Three major power lines are being proposed to help address this problem. The Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) would run from Possum Point in Northern Virginia, across Southern Maryland, under the Chesapeake Bay to Indian River in Delaware and north to New Jersey. It has recently been approved by the PJM Board.
The second line is the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line (TRAIL) which would run from near Pittsburgh to Loudoun County, Virginia. It would do much to bring excess power from Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to the Washington DC region but has faced intense local opposition. The third is the Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), which would run from near Charleston WV to near Frederick, MD. It has been approved by the PJM Board on June 22.
Together these three would significanlty increase transmission capacity and lower transmission costs in the Baltimore/DC area and to the Eastern Shore. Given local opposition, it's unlikely that any of them will be completed before 2012, however, in time to affect the predicted power shortage.
In that regard, a statewide coalition of power companies and business groups has formed to press the state to speed up the approval process for new power plants and power lines. The group, which includes my own supplier - Choptank Electric Cooperative - along with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and others is concerned that brownouts will be necessary if nothing is done.
On the positive side, all the investor-owned utilities in Maryland have begun 'Demand-Side Management' initiatives which are a combination of energy efficiency programs which reduce the amount of energy used and demand response programs designed to reduce the electricty demand during times of high usage. The cooperatives will submit plans during 2008. Primarily these include CFL lightbulb programs and 'smart meters' which can reduce power usage during high demand. BGE's program also includes more efficient window air conditioners and appliances for low-income customers.
In addition, Delmarva Power and Choptank Electric Cooperative have finally signed a contract with Bluewater Power to buy electricity from a proposed wind farm off the Delaware coast. The project awaits approval by the state of Delaware.
Finally, I'm happy to report that Worcester County has this week begun generating electricity using methane generated from its landfill. The project is built and operated by Curtis Engine and generates 1 megawatt of electricity which will be purchased and distributed by Choptank Electric Cooperative. Two more generators at the site will come on line within the next year. The project not only generates electricity, but captures the methane - a potent greenhouse gas - that otherwise would end up in the atmosphere. I'm very pleased that my trash will now generate some of the electricity I use!
[The photo is of a wind farm near Copenhagen, Denmark]