2023 in Review: PJM Urges United Action To Sustain Grid Reliability Through the Energy Transition

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PJM and its stakeholders spent 2023 tackling a variety of challenges facing the evolving electricity industry, all with the goal of maintaining the reliability of the bulk electric system as more renewable resources connect to the grid.

Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022 offered a prelude to 2023 and the impetus for much of the work PJM and stakeholders undertook throughout the year to bolster reliability. While PJM and its members were able to maintain reliable electricity service during the storm, Elliott’s record temperature drops on Dec. 23–24 resulted in the loss of more than 25% of PJM’s generation fleet, raising a number of questions about generation resource performance.

In July 2023, PJM released its Winter Storm Elliott Event Analysis and Recommendation Report (PDF), which reviewed the circumstances leading up to the storm, assessed performance of the system during the event, and identified 30 recommendations to help improve grid reliability. In December, PJM provided members with an update (PDF) on its work on those recommendations.

For the winter of 2023–2024, PJM implemented winter readiness measures beyond the annual Cold Weather Preparation Guideline and Checklist, seasonal fuel and emissions surveys, and other operations and planning steps. These measures were adopted as a result of lessons learned from recent extreme weather events, including Winter Storm Elliott.

For the 2023–2024 winter, PJM:

  • Improved generator operational and seasonal reporting requirements
  • Adjusted short-term forecasting to better capture long-term extreme weather trends
  • Enhanced communication protocols with generation owners before and during cold weather events to ensure that required preparations and actions are received, understood and acknowledged
  • Requested and received FERC approval to change market rules to allow generators to update their Day-Ahead Market operating parameters in real time, providing PJM operators with greater situational awareness of generators’ capabilities at all times 

PJM estimated that more than 181,000 MW of resources were available to meet the forecasted peak demand of approximately 137,000 MW over the 2023–2024 winter, plus an average forecast of just under 4,000 MW of electricity exports to neighboring systems.

Ensuring a Reliable Energy Transition

While working to identify and address issues raised by Winter Storm Elliott, in February 2023, PJM outlined its broad concerns about grid reliability in the near and longer terms with the publication of the third report in an ongoing study, Energy Transition in PJM: Resource Retirements, Replacements & Risks. The paper documented PJM’s concerns over the combined forces of new electricity demand growth, accelerating retirements of existing generators and the slow pace of new generation construction.

While electricity demand continues to rise with the proliferation of energy-intensive data centers and electric vehicles and heating systems, more than 20% of PJM’s generators (~40 GW) are expected to retire by 2030.

At the same time, new renewable generation resources expected to replace them are successfully completing the newly streamlined PJM interconnection process, but many are not being built because of siting, financing or supply chain issues. At the end of 2023, there were about 40 GW of projects that had come through the PJM study process and had yet to move to construction.

The energy transition study set the stage for PJM’s Ensuring a Reliable Energy Transition initiative, which laid out an initial set of actions to address the reliability concerns identified by PJM for the immediate, near and upcoming terms, with a web page to describe those actions and track their progress. The work was synthesized in a presentation, The Reliability Landscape: A Look Forward (PDF), at the May Annual Meeting.

PJM delivered this message – the need to work together to preserve reliability through the changes brought on by government policy, consumer choices and market forces – to many audiences throughout the year. This included President and CEO Manu Asthana testifying June 1 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources about PJM’s efforts to identify and address the challenges to the reliable delivery of electricity during the ongoing transformation of the electrical grid.

Other testimony by PJM leaders in 2023 can be found on the Reports & Notices page of PJM.com.

Helping Inform Policy

More than ever, federal and state policies are poised to affect reliability and cost in the energy transition. PJM has been engaging states on how their policies can be achieved reliably and working with federal officials to help inform their policies as well.

PJM and others throughout the power sector consulted with EPA on the agency’s Good Neighbor Plan, which aims to cut nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants and industrial facilities in 23 states. EPA noted that the rule included changes shaped by feedback from grid operators and other industry stakeholders concerned about maintaining reliability while implementing the new regulations.

PJM also worked with EPA on solutions to maintain grid reliability in response to a separate proposed EPA rule on New Source Performance Standards for Greenhouse Gas Emissions. PJM joined grid operators MISO, ERCOT and SPP in submitting comments on this proposed rule in August, raising concerns that the rule, in combination with other EPA rules, could threaten reliability by forcing the wholesale retirement of thermal generators without the new generation in place to supplant them. The grid operators met with EPA on possible ways to address reliability concerns and submitted additional comments on Dec. 20, 2023.