The Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), a 765-kV electric transmission project planned to run between West Virginia and Frederick, MD, has been shelved in the wake of a PJM Interconnection analysis, which cited "the outlook for a slower economic recovery."

"Over the last two years, the recession and the dramatic change in the economic outlook caused PJM to forecast lower growth in the use of electricity. Growth in the use of electricity correlates with economic growth. The forecasted slower growth rate likely will delay the need for the line," PJM said.

The regional transmission organization will continue its analysis and the PJM board will review the analysis as part of its consideration of the 2011 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan, an annual review of PJM transmission expansion plans.

American Electric Power (AEP) and FirstEnergy Corp. said they would seek the withdrawal of applications for state regulatory approval of the $2.1 billion project in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.

"While we are certainly disappointed by the suspension of PATH and the uncertainties created by the PJM planning process, we do support a thorough and detailed analysis of the need for the project," said AEP CEO Michael G. Morris. "We remain convinced that the project will be needed and plan to move forward with it when PJM completes its review."

The 275-mile transmission project was first authorized by PJM in 2007 to relieve overloads that were predicted to occur as early as 2012 on existing transmission lines in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia (see Power Market Today, June 25, 2007). It was to be built by AEP and Allegheny Energy, which recently merged with FirstEnergy.

A delay was hinted at last year when PJM released a preliminary 2011 Load Forecast Report, which included a lower load forecast going forward than previously predicted (see Power Market Today, Dec. 2, 2010). PJM at that time reaffirmed a required in-service date of June 1, 2015 for PATH.

AEP and FirstEnergy have suspended most activities on the project "except those that may be necessary to return the project to active status" at the conclusion of a pending review by PJM of its planning process, the companies said.

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