- Officials at regional power grid operator PJM Interconnection are sparring with the Sierra Club over the conversion of a New Jersey power plant to natural gas. Steven R. Herling, PJM's chief planning official said in a letter to NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel that a conversion would not create reliability problems, but that the plant's shutdown would.
- The note came in response to statements from the director Sierra Club New Jersey’s that converting the B.L. England power station from coal and oil to natural gas would overload the transmission system. The Sierra Club wants the plant shuttered and is working to prevent the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection from approving a gas pipeline to the plant rejected by the Pinelands Commission because it would traverse the state’s protected Pinelands.
- From information in a PJM Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee presentation, Tittel concluded failure to shutter the plant would cause reliability issues on PJM’s system. Herling says that conclusion is a misinterpretation.
PJM officials say the Sierra Club director based his statements on reliability issues that will only develop if coal and oil units at the plant operate simultaneously with new gas generators, an unlikely situation hypothesized in the RTO's presentation.
"Simply put, the continued operation of existing generating units at the B.L. England site, absent the addition of significant amounts of new generation, is not projected to result in reliability problems," Herling wrote.
Tittel had said last week that PJM's own documents show a plant conversion is not in the public interest.
"This report is a game changer," Tittel said, referring to a reliability report released by PJM. "It clearly shows that this plant is not only unnecessary, but will actually hurt reliability in the region."
Despite Herling's letter, the Sierra Club remains unconvinced that a natural gas retrofit is the best course.
"They're trying to spin it any way they can," Tittel said.
PJM has identified $143 million in grid improvements needed if the plant is shuttered.
The DEP recently extended the B.L. England plant's license by two years when PJM said shuttering it in 2015 would cause "immediate" reliability issues and could lead to brownouts.
B.L. England is owned by Rockland Capital Energy Investments of Houston.