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Transource faces disruption in the electric industry

The disruption of the old ways has gone on for more than 100 years. It probably started with Henry Ford and the automobile way back in the early 1900s. It has touched most every industry.

Edison’s idea for power was DC after he invented the light bulb, but Westinghouse figured out how to transmit power long distances and AC power took hold. Transistors replaced vacuum tubes, which were replaced by integrated circuits. New ideas, inventions, and disruption are part of the American DNA. Today we are seeing a new industry disrupted and, as always, it is having a hard time adapting. What is that new disruption? It is the disruption of the electric power industry.

PJM manages the electric grid in a wide territory in our area that spans 13 states from New Jersey into the Midwest. In the early 2000s PJM proposed a number of major transmission line projects. Several have already been cancelled including PATH and MAPP. Consider the PATH transmission line that was to run from West Virginia and terminate in New Market, Maryland, just south of Frederick. Based on 2010 census data Frederick County grew by more than 38,000 people in a decade and at a 19.5% rate. But in 2007 PJM determined that the PATH transmission line was no longer needed because of declining demand. So why is demand declining?

There are several reasons, but one of the main reasons is energy efficiency. Today, every time a homeowner decides to replace an appliance, be it a dryer or clothes washer, they replace that appliance with one that is much more energy efficient. They buy an Energy Star appliance. Whether it is a major appliance or a small appliance, our home becomes more energy efficient with each new purchase. Industry has figured out how to build better. And that innovation is disrupting the electric power business. There is no longer a demand for more Kwhrs for our homes. We are using less energy and the electric utility business is suddenly finding that rather than more energy we need less.

Likewise in the residential construction business we have learned how to build better. Batt insulation is now installed more efficiently. In some cases homeowners are using foam rather than batt. Foam insulation is not only better insulation with a much higher R value, it also seals much better so there are not the same air leaks. The home uses less energy in the summer; it also uses less energy in the winter. At the extreme of energy efficient homes are NZE ( Net Zero Energy ) homes. They may not even need the electric grid.

But there are other factors that play into the need, or lack of need, for a new transmission line in the South Central Pennsylvania area. In our area along the Mason Dixon line population is declining, not rising, based on census data. While Franklin County Pennsylvania has been growing slowly as has Washington County, Maryland, all of the counties west of this area along the Mason Dixon line are declining in population. In Pennsylvania the net population decline is 2.1% for all of the counties including Franklin, basically the counties in Bill Shuster’s legislative district.

A population decline leads to less housing, which means less residential electrical demand. Population declines also mean fewer shoppers, so again a decrease in electrical demand in the commercial area.

All of these factors are lowering the demand for electricity from the grid. In addition, we are shopping more online….

Read full article at Public Opinion