2018 in Review: System Performance, Engagement & New Technology

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PJM entered 2018 on a strong note, performing well during an extended cold snap that included the system’s sixth-highest winter demand day and a historic storm.

The PJM system’s solid performance under stressed conditions set the stage for a year marked by a number of member-driven enhancements and technological advancements.

Jan. 5, 2018, arrived amid a cold snap that descended two days after Christmas, stretched to Jan. 7 and featured a “bomb cyclone” that shrouded much of the region in blizzard conditions.

Demand for electricity that day surged to 137,499 megawatts – the highest winter load the system had seen since Feb. 20, 2015, the top winter peak load day at 143,338 MW.

PJM President and CEO Andy Ott said the solid performance of the PJM system throughout the 12-day cold snap reflected the strength, preparation and agility of PJM’s member companies, which include generators, transmission owners and local utilities.

“Thanks to great coordination and reliable operations from PJM members and operators, the PJM grid remained reliable during the cold snap and demonstrated its robustness and the effectiveness of the changes implemented since the Polar Vortex,” wrote Ott, noting that the performance of generators improved under new operating procedures and a new system of incentives and penalties enacted to make sure generators are ready to perform when called upon.

PJM Helps Shape Federal Dialogue

The storm led to the first of several opportunities for PJM to provide guidance on grid issues to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as well as FERC.

On Jan. 23, Ott testified before the Senate committee, sharing the system’s experience and outlining key ingredients for a resilient grid into the future – among them, improving electric-gas coordination and properly valuing the reliability attributes of generation resources.

Both items were front and center throughout the year’s work and will continue to be focuses of 2019 initiatives.

Furthering the dialogue of grid resilience, Ott returned to the committee in October to testify at a hearing on Black Start Services and other system restoration plans. Black Start Services are designated generators (known as Black Start units) that are able to restore electricity to the grid without using an outside electrical supply.

PJM also participated in a FERC Technical Conference on distributed energy resources, such as home solar wherein PJM staff discussed the need for bulk power system planners and operators to have visibility on distributed energy resources, many of which are small and operate behind the retail meter. These resources have the ability to impact bulk power system operations and planning, so more accurate information will help PJM more accurately forecast the operation of these resources and their potential to provide important resources during emergency operating conditions.

Record Membership Leads to Changes

Since 1997, when PJM’s competitive wholesale electricity market opened, membership has grown from 89 to more than 1,000. Most recently, on Dec. 1, the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation integrated its system into PJM.

That makes for a lot of voices in the PJM stakeholder process and a lot of member activity.

In an effort to fine-tune the stakeholder process, members in July kicked off a Stakeholder Process Super Forum.

The Members Committee on Oct. 25 approved a problem statement and issue charge framing work that the forum will begin in January.

With the facilitation of Becky Carroll, director of member relations, stakeholders will be exploring ways to enhance the value of the stakeholder process by:

  • Prioritizing issues to allow stakeholders to manage the volume of issues and meetings
  • Developing an additional pathway to vet issues that are contentious or require quick decisions
  • Enhancing transparency throughout the PJM stakeholder process and decision-making hierarchy

The PJM Board also established an external liaison to provide confidential feedback to the Board concerning the role and performance of the independent market monitor.

Board of Managers Marks End of an Era

The Board of Managers marked the end of an era with the retirement of one of the founding members of the independent Board, Howard Schneider, who had served as a member of the PJM Board since 1996 and Board chair since 2007.

Ake Almgren, a Board member since 2003, succeeded Schneider as chair, and Neil H. Smith, retired president and CEO of InterGen Inc., was elected to join the Board.

PJM Improves Membership Experience

PJM continually strives to improve coordination with its growing membership, and in 2018 made a number of technological enhancements. Among them, PJM:

  • Improved the user friendliness of its governing documents on pjm.com. With the update, users can now read PJM governing documents such as the Operating Agreement and Open Access Transmission Tariff on dynamic, easy-to-navigate web pages that include pop-up definitions of certain terms and cross-reference links within each document.
  • Released a major update for the PJM Now app, enabling tracking real-time operational data trends and viewing fuel generation mix.
  • Launched a new page on pjm.com that makes it easier for visitors to find information about generators that have requested to be deactivated. The new easily filtered Generation Deactivations page replaced the Generation Deactivation Summary Sheets that were previously only available as PDF or Excel files.
  • Updated its Planning page to provide several new, interactive graphs and images including approved transmission projects, fuel mix of the generation queue and generator interconnection request, among others.
  • Created a new feature in the Membership Management Community to manage company contact information.

PJM Embraces Innovative Technology

PJM is always looking for ways to embrace innovation and collaborate with its members and other key industry players in exploring new and emerging technologies.

One such technology is a new, dynamic line-rating tool, which monitors and reports on transmission line temperature (and therefore, congestion) in real time. This has the potential to give dispatchers a more accurate understanding of a line’s capacity at any given moment, expanding its capability, improving reliability and resulting in cost savings.

PJM collaborated on a pilot program for the new tool with American Electric Power (AEP) and LineVision (formerly Genscape Inc.). The U.S. Department of Energy, through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, coordinated the effort, brought the players together and provided funding.

PJM’s joint report on the pilot garnered the top prize in the Next Generation Network Paper Competition at the CIGRE 2018 Grid of the Future conference.

Another notable foray into emerging technology is through a collaboration between PJM subsidiary PJM Environmental Information Services (PJM-EIS) and the Energy Web Foundation to develop and test a blockchain-based tool for the Generation Attribute Tracking System.

The pilot will involve testing the foundation’s Energy Web Origin, a toolkit for renewable energy and carbon markets that could simplify and improve the way in which customers buy and sell renewable energy, while also potentially reducing costs.