General Session Reflects on Maintaining Reliability in the Energy Transition

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PJM and stakeholders discussed approaches to reliability challenges posed by the evolving grid during the PJM General Session Dec. 4.

To set the stage, PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana noted the critical importance of maintaining reliable electricity service in the face of decarbonization policy objectives, while also keeping power affordable.

The stakes could not be higher, he noted, pointing out the hundreds of lives lost and up to $300 billion in costs from Winter Storm Uri in Texas in 2021; a string of record-setting global weather events, including the hottest September on record in 2023; and a recent study suggesting the lack of access to affordable energy in Europe killed tens of thousands of people last winter.

“We are starting to see that these three objectives of reliability, affordability and decarbonization often conflict,” Asthana said. “I think it would be really helpful and I think it is really necessary to have ongoing, serious, fact-based conversations about those trade-offs to help inform policymakers – those who are elected and appointed by those who are elected – to make the right trade-offs because there are trade-offs to be made.”

PJM is not a policymaker and seeks to facilitate the diverse politics in its footprint, he said.

“You’ve heard me say many times that these are complex problems, and they require all of us. They require the best thinking of all of our stakeholders, whether they are members or nonmembers and other stakeholders,” Asthana said.

The Reliability Landscape: A Look Forward

PJM reviewed recent steps taken to preserve reliability and meet the challenges of the energy transition in a presentation from Jennifer Tribulski, PJM Sr. Director – Member Services, and Rebecca Carroll, PJM Sr. Director – Market Design & Economics.

The PJM presentation reviewed:

  • PJM’s continuing series of papers and studies on grid reliability, including the most recent,  Energy Transition in PJM: Resource Retirements, Replacements & Risks (PDF)
  • Immediate and upcoming concerns to support resource performance, ensure resource adequacy, and maintain and attract essential reliability services
  • PJM’s actions in the wake of Winter Storm Elliott to follow up on analysis; measure operational flexibility; and pursue market, dispatch and industry coordination
  • The collection of resources being continually updated at PJM’s Ensuring a Reliable Energy Transition webpage

Trends, Events and a Look at the Future

Craig Glazer, PJM Vice President – Federal Government Policy, moderated a five-person panel discussing how current forces will play out in 2026 and beyond, seen through the lens of public policy, technology, the electricity industry, regulation and generation project finance. Glazer was joined by:

  • Joe Eto, Senior Advisor, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and member of the California Independent System Operator Board of Governors
  • Phil Moeller, Executive Vice President, Business Operations Group and Regulatory Affairs at the Edison Electric Institute and former FERC commissioner
  • Karen Palmer, Senior Fellow & Director, Electric Power Program, Resources for the Future
  • Richard Sedano, President and CEO of the Regulatory Assistance Project
  • Alex Wernberg, Managing Director of Mitsubishi UFG Financial Group, North America Power Project Finance

Panelists discussed rising policy preferences for decarbonization and growing electrification needs, including expected steady growth in electric vehicles, the impact of diverse public policy objectives, tightening credit markets resulting from rising interest rates offset by policy incentives, the continuing trends of retiring thermal generation resources, and the technological and grid-balancing issues associated with the integration of renewable resources connecting to the grid.

Open dialogue about these trends and the insight shared about their associated impacts to planning, operations, markets and security are essential to informing needed action ahead, PJM Board of Managers Chair Mark Takahashi said in remarks following the panel.

 “There is a lot in front of us, but it is the collective will of the group that moves us forward, and we will need that commitment ever more going forward because the challenges are just as big as ever,” said Takahashi.