2020 in Review: PJM Fosters Innovation

Grid of the Future Takes the Spotlight Amid Accelerating Industry Change


Preparing for the grid of the future was the focus of much of the work undertaken by PJM and its stakeholders in 2020.

PJM expanded stakeholder insight into its ongoing research on the viability of new and evolving grid technologies. The new Emerging Technologies Forum offers a transparent window into PJM’s Advanced Technology Pilot Program, while also gathering stakeholder feedback and providing education on emerging technology and considerations for implementation. (See “New Stakeholder Group Explores the Grid of the Future.”)

For example, PJM in 2020 collaborated with Microsoft to examine grid-interactive data centers equipped with upgraded battery-based backup power units. Data centers, a growing segment of electrical load in PJM’s footprint, have the potential to act as flexible load – that is, they can utilize critical backup power units to also provide grid services that help system operators like PJM integrate renewables and maintain reliability. Battery-based backup power for data centers is also cleaner than traditional diesel backup generation, helping corporations like Microsoft improve their carbon footprint.

PJM and the North Carolina Electric Membership Corp. (NCEMC) also have teamed up to test new software and controls that manage distributed energy resources (DER) across cooperative distribution systems in North Carolina.

Popularity of Hybrid Resources Grows

With more than a quarter of the approximately 72,000 solar megawatts in the PJM interconnection queue representing a solar-plus-storage combination, PJM also created the new DER and Inverter-Based Resources Subcommittee.

The group has begun the process of identifying operational and market enhancements needed to accommodate a growing number of hybrid resources, which are composed of two types of generation at a single point of interconnection. Hybrids are also known as combination resources.

Practically speaking, that’s generation and energy storage. While the model may apply to any type of generation, including wind, the most common planned pairing in PJM is solar and storage.

Order 2222 on Distributed Energy Resources

In addition, the DER and Inverter-Based Resources Subcommittee has begun working on a plan to implement the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 2222.

Issued in September, Order 2222 makes it possible, via aggregation, for resources connected to the distribution system – such as solar, biomass, wind, storage and demand response – to bid competitively against large-scale utility power plants in regional power markets. PJM is required to file its proposed implementation plan by July 19, 2021.

PJM already has a demand resources model, developed with stakeholders over the past 13 years, that allows DER participation through aggregation. This provides a strong starting point for full compliance with the FERC order.

Aligning Market and System Rules with New Resources

In another initiative to align market rules and system requirements with the rising availability of renewables and energy storage, the Capacity Capability Senior Task Force spent 2020 exploring new methods of calculating how much power resources – such as wind, solar and energy storage – are capable of producing.

On Oct. 30, PJM submitted a filing to FERC to establish an Effective Load Carrying Capability (ELCC) construct for determining the amount of capacity that variable resources may offer into PJM’s capacity market. These include wind and solar, limited duration resources such as energy storage, and hybrid resources.

The proposed ELCC framework would replace PJM’s current “10-hour rule” for energy storage resources, such as batteries.

Storage as a Transmission Asset

Today, storage is a main player in the Regulation Market. Not only does PJM have about 300 MW of storage capacity in its system, but looking forward, PJM has approximately 15,000 MW of stand-alone energy storage along with the 17,500 MW of hybrid resources in the planning queue.

Special sessions of the Planning Committee, meanwhile, have been studying the concept of using storage as a transmission asset.

Storage has a potential dual use, as a transmission asset at times and as a market participant at other times. In 2020, Phase 1 of the group’s work focused on storage’s capability only as a transmission asset.

The effort will explore existing transmission planning criteria, including performance measurement methodology. Where there are gaps, the committee will develop additional criteria to be used in evaluating storage as a transmission asset to address elements in the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (RTEP) associated with reliability, market efficiency, operational performance and public policy.