PJM testifies at U.S. Senate hearing on winter cold snap and system performance

PJM President and CEO Andy Ott testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Tuesday on the performance of the PJM system during the cold weather snap earlier this month. The hearing concentrated on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Ott compared the recent cold snap to the 2014 Polar Vortex. The recent weather was milder – the temperatures were not as low, the wind chill was much less and the demand was lower, in part due to the occurrence during a holiday week. He also pointed out that the recent cold snap lasted much longer than the polar vortex, which led to some degrading of generator performance over time.

Ott told the Senate that enhancements that PJM and members implemented after the Polar Vortex drove the improved performance – including deployment of more efficient generation resources, increased investment in existing resources and improved performance incentives.

Ott vouched for the reliability of the grid and of overall bulk electric system reliability and then discussed PJM’s work in addressing resilience. Those initiatives focus on keeping the grid functioning – no matter what the cause of an event – and planning for, operating through and ensuring grid restoration should an extreme event occur.

He also talked about broad initiates going forward, including enhanced gas-electric coordination, balancing the need for transparency with the need to protect critical infrastructure and properly valuing the reliability attributes of generation resources. The last includes energy price formation and shortage pricing, which are being addressed on several levels at PJM, including the new senior task force.

Among those who joined Ott on the witness panel were:

  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre
  • Bruce Walker, assistant secretary, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Charles A. Berardesco, interim president and chief executive officer, North American Electric Reliability Corporation
  • Allison Clements, president, Goodgrid LLC (a renewable energy firm)
  • Gordon van Welie, CEO of ISO New England