Fuel Security: Working Together for a Resilient Grid

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By Mike Bryson – vice president – Operations

PJM Interconnection’s fuel security efforts have reached what I consider an important milestone: defining and explaining credible risk scenarios. We are beginning to see how resilience issues can be effectively identified, studied and addressed in the grid.

Our focus on resilience began in March 2017, when we released a paper called PJM’s Evolving Resource Mix and Reliability. In that paper, we identified that the PJM system may be reliable into the future even with a dramatically changed fuel mix, but we first asked the question: Will the system still be resilient?

While reliability and resilience are related, they are not the same. Reliability is about keeping the lights on; you may have a system that reliably provides power on a consistent basis, but does the system have the plans and ability to withstand and recover from a major disruption? That’s resilience.

A Snapshot of PJM’s Approach to Fuel Security

The degree to which the PJM grid is resilient was beyond the scope of our paper on reliability, but the question sparked debate and study within PJM, with our stakeholders and beyond. That discussion not only continues today, but has become more vigorous and widespread. The potential vulnerability of the fuel supply to generators in the PJM footprint has been identified as an important contributor to resilience, and that is what we intend to gain a better understanding of.

We will begin to review results of our analysis in late summer at a Special MRC session. At that time, if we find any material issues that need to be addressed, we will kick off Phase 2 with more focused stakeholder engagement to discuss potential solutions and how and where to incorporate them into the PJM system. If we determine there is a critical issue that needs to be resolved immediately, we will begin an accelerated stakeholder process to get solutions into in a FERC filing in January.

In Phase 3, we will incorporate additional assumptions from state regulators, and federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Energy (DOE). This phase has been concurrent with the rest of our efforts. In July, we met with DOE subject matter experts to obtain key input on cyber or physical threats that could affect fuel supply and impact the grid. We also gained additional insight into the abilities and methods that may be used by bad actors to attack critical U.S. infrastructure.

While the nature of the discussions with DOE means some information needs to remain classified, we have created and released a public version, which explains at a high level the scenarios supported by information provided by DOE. Those scenarios are separate from the rest of our fuel security efforts and the analysis related to them will begin later in the year.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished to move the needle on resilience, as always, assisted at every step by our members and stakeholders, and aided by information provided by industry groups, regulators and government agencies. With your help, we are proving that resilience issues – even those that fall outside our normal purview – can be effectively identified, studied and accounted for in the grid.