The PJM Interconnection Board of Managers (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, U.S.) has approved $147.6 million in additional improvements to the regional electric transmission system. The investment will allow more generation projects and — for the first time — merchant transmission projects to connect to the electric grid.

The transmission investment is part of PJM's Regional Transmission Expansion Plan. The plan looks at transmission needs on a regional basis and selects the best, most cost-effective solutions. Transmission owners, typically electric utilities, construct the transmission improvements. The PJM region includes seven states and the District of Columbia.

The recently approved updates to the plan will accommodate the connection to the grid of 41 generation projects, which will add 5,251 MW of new generation capacity. That is enough electricity to power about four million homes. New generating units help to satisfy the region's growing use of electricity.

For the first time, the transmission improvements also will allow a number of merchant transmission projects to connect to the PJM electric grid. "Merchant" transmission facilities are not in a utility's rates. Investors finance the projects and take the full risk of building the facilities.

"Competitive wholesale electricity markets require a fully integrated, open planning process with a broad perspective," said Phillip G. Harris, president and CEO of PJM. "Our process has delivered results that attract investments to provide electricity to power consumers' lives. The process also provides an unbiased and balanced record for the states in our region to use in their review of projects."

PJM's Board of Managers approved the first Regional Transmission Expansion Plan in 2000. To date, approved transmission investments total nearly $775 million. Those investments will accommodate the interconnection of more than 25,000 MW of proposed generating capacity.

PJM Board approvals also include transmission updates to keep the system in compliance with regional reliability standards. The standards ensure that the system continues to deliver electricity throughout the area.

The updated Regional Transmission Expansion Plan, including the $147.6 million of required transmission upgrades and the associated generation and merchant transmission projects, will be published on the PJM Web site,