July 1, 2001
L.A. Loves a Loophole
There's no getting around it...
Merchant Mania: Regional Markets Draw Gen Plant Projects
Developers launch 70,000 MW of new capacity in Texas, PJM and New York state, but how much will get built?
It's so hot down here, it isn't funny," laughed Ken Donohoo, senior transmission systems engineer at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas independent system operator. But no, he wasn't talking about last summer's scorching temperatures.
Instead, Donohoo was referring to some 30,000-plus megawatts of generation capacity proposed to be built in ERCOT between 2001 and 2003. And the projects reportedly planned for the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland (PJM) region would add another 30,000 MW, doubling the Texas total. Moreover, the two areas bear evidence of a growing trend: Standardization of power markets and transmission access across a region, through formation of an independent system operator (ISO) and (in some cases) a spot market power exchange, proves a strong drawing card for new investment in generation.
For reasons of confidentiality, Donohoo cannot reveal the names of the ERCOT project sponsors or the exact location of construction sites. Nor will PJM offer many details of plants proposed in its area, beyond the name of the substation that would link the plant to the grid. Yet at least 13 Texas projects have "gone public." These projects now list sponsors, size, location and planned completion dates, affording at least a modicum of confidence that some planned projects may in fact get built.
A year ago the Fortnightly examined merchant plant construction slated for New England and California. In New England alone, some 63 projects representing more than 31,000 MW of new capacity were proposed. (See "Merchant Plants, Coast to Coast," Public Utilities Fortnightly, Jan. 1, 1999, p. 26.) A year later, things have solidified somewhat in New England. "I think the feeling, at least from our perspective," said John Durkee, manager, energy products marketing at turbine manufacturer GE Power Systems, "is that if you're not in [New England now], you're too late."
Now, with the merchant plant scene maturing in New England and nearby PJM heating up, New York state also can be added to the list. Like New England, information on proposed projects is readily available, mostly from the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. (In New England, the ISO provides much of the publicly available information.)
Texas: Gaining Credibility
While most of the projects in Texas remain proprietary, several sponsors, with projects a little further developed, have now gone public. (See table, p. 36.) But in spite of the lack of information on other projects, one thing is for sure: The merchant plant movement in Texas is hotter than a chili pepper, and still getting hotter. Of the 60-plus requests for generation interconnection totaling over 30,000 MW, over 6,000 MW are proposed for construction in 2000, 8,000 MW for 2001, 15,000 MW for 2002 and 1,000 MW for 2003 thus far.
And sponsors who already have announced plans apparently remain as bullish as ever. Entergy, for example, which originally announced in April that it was evaluating the feasibility of an 800-MW plant in Fairfield, has since earmarked a fourth turbine for the planned