General Session Focuses on Energy Transition

Panel Explores Maintaining Reliability and Efficient Markets

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Balancing the pace of generation retirements with the connection of new resources, designing competitive markets that value flexibility and clean energy, and quantifying reliability were among the themes of Tuesday’s General Session panel, “Maintaining Reliability and Efficient Markets Through the Transition.”

PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana introduced the panel, the first of two presented Tuesday as part of the 2022 Annual Meeting.

“I set the stage yesterday with my thoughts on reliability, both in the short term, where I think we are relatively well positioned, although we can certainly not take anything for granted, and in the longer term, where I think there’s some trends that are concerning,” Asthana said.

Moderator Jim Robb, president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., with panelists Brian George, Global Energy Market Development and Policy, Google; and Bobby Jeffers, program manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Moderated by Jim Robb, president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., the discussion explored implications of the energy transition on PJM planning, markets and operations, with a focus on reliability.

Joining Robb were five industry experts:

  • Brian George, Global Energy Market Development and Policy, Google
  • Bobby Jeffers, program manager, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Peter Brandien, vice president, System Operations and Market Administration, ISO-NE
  • Jeff Craigo, senior vice president, Reliability and Risk, ReliabilityFirst
  • Nancy Bagot, senior vice president, Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA)

PJM is well positioned to manage the energy transition, Robb said in his opening remarks.

One of the goals of a successful energy system, he said, is to find ways to balance three competing interests – reliability, environmental impact and affordability.

Retirements of generation that provide essential reliability services are occurring faster than they are being replaced with comparable services, and the importance of reliability is only going to increase as more parts of our lives are electrified, Robb said.

Panelists Peter Brandien, vice president, System Operations and Market Administration, ISO-NE; Jeff Craigo, senior vice president, Reliability and Risk, ReliabilityFirst; and Nancy Bagot, senior vice president, Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA).

George, representing Google, said reliability is key to growing his business, and competitive markets have the power to drive down costs. Access to these markets, he said, is the reason Google has invested so heavily in the PJM footprint.

The company’s goal is to power all of its data centers around the clock with renewable energy by 2030.

Jeffers said NREL is trying to quantify reliability in three areas: economic, the social burden and national security.

Brandien, of ISO-NE, outlined the framework the RTO is using to address the transition. It consists of four pillars:

  • How to handle the influx of massive amounts of clean energy resources
  • Providing balancing resources
  • The challenge of energy adequacy when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining
  • Having adequate transmission to ensure the new resource mix isn’t constrained

Craigo of ReliabilityFirst said that while connecting new resources and building transmission are part of the puzzle, taking existing risks off the table is a mission ReliabilityFirst has targeted successfully since the 2014 Polar Vortex.

Since that time, a significant amount of “risk of misoperation” has been reduced on the system – including in the PJM footprint, where the percentage of forced outages was reduced by half by 2019, when the next extreme winter weather event occurred.

Bagot, representing competitive power suppliers, said competitive markets and mechanisms have gotten the industry to where it is today and can get it to the next step while meeting the goals of a reliable, clean, affordable grid. She noted that PJM saves $3.2–4 billion annually for the 65 million customers it serves, and its capacity market has been able to avoid the outages and close calls that have occurred elsewhere in the country in the past couple of years.