Asthana Discusses the Diverse Challenges of Decarbonization at D.C. Summit

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PJM CEO Manu Asthana joined utility regulators and industry experts to discuss challenges to the implementation of clean energy policies at the Clean Energy Summit: Path to Decarbonization conference Sept. 28.

The conference sponsor, the District of Columbia Public Service Commission, aims to source 100% of its electricity from clean or renewable resources by 2032. The District of Columbia and 11 of 13 states served by PJM have implemented some form of climate-driven policy to speed the ongoing energy transition to renewable resources.

State utility commission leaders from some of those PJM states, namely Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania, also presented during the first panel of the day.

Complex, Diverse Factors Drive Grid Transition

Besides state policies being a “huge driving force,” Asthana said federal legislative proposals pending before the U.S. Congress, in addition to the decisions of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, may impact the grid.

Technological innovation also drives grid change, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. But among the many forces driving the clean energy transition, Asthana said, consumers are playing an important role. Their preferences influence the 230,000 MW of resources pending in PJM’s interconnection queue, 90% of which are wind, solar, battery or hybrids of those resources, he said.

“They are voting with their wallet. They want clean. They want reliable. They want cost-efficient, cheap electricity. They are making it happen for themselves,” Asthana said. “There is a lot of commercial activity that is being driven by consumers that is changing the face of the grid.”

Grid Operators Maintain Reliability

Among this clear trend to the grid of the future, PJM continues its nearly century-long tradition of maintaining the reliable, efficient dispatch of power while providing neutral, independent expertise and facilitating durable solutions informed by the stakeholder process, Asthana said.

“This is a really exciting time. I think we collectively face some very big challenges,” he said. “We are not policymakers. RTOs and markets are not an end unto themselves. They are a powerful tool. They help achieve the policies of policymakers.”

The most efficient solutions for reliability require collaboration amid divergent policies, jurisdictional issues and multiple trends fueling the renewable energy transition.

“I am very proud of the way our stakeholders at PJM have come together,” Asthana said. “That stakeholder process, that very important stakeholder process, makes us better. It serves to challenge us, to get us to the best collective solution,” he added. “And so another way of saying it is that I really encourage all of us to please continue to bring our best ideas to the table and push each other to try to solve these problems collectively.”