Creating chaos out of order

Power play: Federal order to merge electric transmission grids will hurt Maryland consumers.

October 24, 2001

USING scare and bully tactics, the federal government is trying to force Maryland electricity consumers into paying higher prices for less reliable service and less local control.

That's the outlook for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's plan to create four new large regional power transmission groups to manage the nation's electric grid. The efficient, stable, economical PJM Interconnection grid system that's taken over 70 years to refine would be twisted and subverted to serve the needs of high-cost New York.

Maryland's carefully crafted deregulation plan to benefit consumers and utilities is also threatened by the FERC order to create a Northeast regional transmission organization within three years.

Challenges by Maryland, Virginia and Washington to the federal agency's mandate have been ignored. So have protests from Vermont and New Hampshire.

Curiously, FERC cited the PJM network, which includes Maryland, as a model for the nation. Then it ordered a hasty merger of PJM with less able New York and New England systems.

Warning of California-type energy problems for the rest of the nation, FERC has pressed its theory that bigger is always better. It ignores the fact that California is the largest U.S. electric market and still failed due to arrogant mismanagement.

Some opposition to the FERC plan is based on loss of control by state regulators and existing regional systems. States opposed to deregulation fear the plan will force that change on them.

Even within PJM, which serves five states and Washington, members hold differing positions on forming mega-regional networks.

But PJM is the largest competitive wholesale power market in the world and has served its 22 million customers well. There's little benefit and a lot of risk in forcing it into a shotgun marriage with less capable Northeastern partners.

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