PPL Electric Utilities, Allentown, Pa., unveiled plans on July 31 for a 725-mile, 500-kV transmission line that would carry shale-gas-generated power from western Pennsylvania's Marcellus region into New Jersey and New York and south to Maryland. The project could cost between $4 billion to $6 billion in construction, said PPL.

The project has a number of potential benefits, including improved reliability, added substation security and reduced congestion in the region, PPL President Gregory Dudkin said during a conference call with analysts.

He noted that the project also would reduce the cost to connect potential generation built in the region to the transmission grid and help replace supplies of electricity that will be lost with the retirement of coal-fired plants.

The project is in the preliminary planning stages, and the utility is in the process of determining the best route and the final details of the proposed line.

Dudkin said the utility hopes to begin construction in 2017, with an expected completion date between 2023 and 2025. “We will have a better idea of the timeline by the end of the year,” he said.

The firm has submitted the plan to PJM Interconnection, the regional coordinator for wholesale energy, and also needs state and regional utility regulatory approvals.

“By delivering lower-cost electricity into the region and by enabling the development of new powerplants fueled by lower-cost and cleaner-burning natural gas, the project is expected to create savings for millions of electric customers in several states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York,” PPL said in its analysis submitted to PJM.

“It has the potential to bring power from west to east and change the economics of the east-west price differentials,” Paul Patterson, an analyst with Glenrock Associates, said in an interview. Still, the project is a long way off, so it is difficult to say precisely what the effect will be, he said.

Dudkin noted the company has extensive experience planning and obtaining approval for and building major regional electric infrastructure projects. It currently is building the Pennsylvania portion of the 145-mile, 500-kV Susquehanna-Roseland project, which runs from Berwick, Pa., to Roseland, N.J.

The project also would make the electric grid more reliable and more secure over a wide area of the mid-Atlantic, he said.