Grid 20/20: Panelists Urge Imagination, Coordination in Planning for Grid Resilience

Imagination, coordination and communication will be essential in identifying and addressing resilience risks to the electric system as PJM and stakeholders plan for the future. That’s what panelists told attendees during the morning session of the PJM Grid 20/20 symposium, held April 19 in Philadelphia.

Grid 20/20: Focus on Resilience (Fuel Mix Diversity & Security) built on a PJM analysis released in March that set out to answer a question for stakeholders: Do we have too much gas generation to be reliable?

The study, “PJM’s Evolving Resource Mix and System Reliability,” concluded that the PJM system is diverse and reliable, but raised another concern, PJM CEO Andy Ott said in his opening remarks.

Given the evolving resource mix and external risks such as cyberattacks, how can PJM and stakeholders ensure resilience, the ability to tolerate or quickly recover from grid disruption?

“The system is very strong today,” he said. “But when you peel down the onion and look at aspects of fuel security, are we recognizing these types of risks in operations, planning and markets?

“Together, we will be defining resilience and figuring out solutions,” he said.

Mike Bryson, PJM vice president – operations, who oversaw the analysis, said a theme emerged during the study.

“Fundamentally, the natural gas infrastructure is robust for the reasonable future,” he said. “But, what about resilience? Are we putting all our eggs in one basket?”

Panelists said it’s crucial for the topic to be part of an ongoing conversation involving all stakeholders, along with state and federal policymakers.

“These are issues that need to be addressed rather urgently, and we really need to work cooperatively,” said Glen Thomas, president of the PJM Power Providers Group, who participated on the first panel, “Fuel Mix Diversity and Security.”

Thomas invoked the federal report that studied the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: “The failure that led to 9/11 was mostly a failure of imagination,” he said.

There are a lot of contingencies to prepare for, he said. Consumers large and small are getting more involved with behind-the-meter generation, for example. And several states are establishing Renewable Portfolio Standards, calling for levels of percent penetration.

Panelist Mark McCullough, executive vice president for generation at AEP, said his biggest takeaway from the paper was the distinction between reliability and resilience. “Resilience is taking into account the uncertainty of a future that’s going to contain low-probability, high risk events,” he said.

Resource diversity alone doesn’t equate to resilience, but it’s a good start, he said.

Jackie Roberts, director of the West Virginia Consumer Advocate Division, said the issue isn’t whether there are too many natural gas-fired resources in the system.

“The gas industry does not have the structure the electric industry does for sufficient planning and operation of the gas system,” she said. “This is essential for us, because gas is so prevalent now.

“It’s time for us to make those adjustments,” she said, going so far as to propose creating a PJM division to serve the gas industry.

In addition, Roberts said, Distributed Energy Resources should be identified to RTOs.

Joseph McClelland, director of the Office of Energy Infrastructure Security for FERC, echoed Ott’s concerns about cyber- and physical security.

“The sophistication, speed and targeting of these threats require special treatment,” he said.