Innovation and Reliability Highlighted at PJM Annual Meeting

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PJM, members and other stakeholders gathered for PJM’s Annual Meeting in Baltimore May 6 to discuss the reliable operation of the grid amid the increasingly complex and fast-paced energy transition, and to explore solutions.

Monday’s Members Committee meeting focused on PJM’s commitment to innovation in helping to maintain reliability as the resource mix evolves from fossil fuels to renewables as load growth accelerates.

PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana welcomed attendees with reflections on PJM’s core mission, recent shared success, and the future. PJM serves 13 states and the District of Columbia and has over 1,000 members, including local utility companies, public power, generation owners, state consumer advocates, industrial customers and others.

“Our number one priority remains the safe and reliable operation of the bulk power system,” Asthana said. “It is very much a team sport.”

Asthana acknowledged PJM Members for maintaining momentum during 2023 on key fronts. Highlights included:

  • Reliable Operations – In a “strong year” for reliability, the PJM system was tested by Winter Storm Gerri and demonstrated improved system performance compared to Winter Storm Elliott in December 2022. Performance was aided by “extremely accurate” load forecasting.
  • Key Market Rule Changes – FERC acceptance of key market changes proposed by PJM followed two years of focused stakeholder collaboration to evolve capacity market processes to better accredit generation resources, model risk and implement generator testing.
  • Queue Reform – PJM transitioned to quickly and efficiently study proposed generation resources in the interconnection queue, with nearly 40,000 MW of generation studies complete with signed interconnection study agreements, another 26,000 MW in projects to clear the process by the end of 2024, and another 46,000 MW in projects to come through the process in 2025.
  • Winter Storm Elliott Lessons – Collective execution of lessons learned from Winter Storm Elliott and the unopposed settlement of performance charges incurred during the storm reflected a shared culture to learn and improve future performance, especially in the face of extreme weather events.
  • Long-Term Regional Transmission Planning – PJM and its members continue active discussion around long-term regional transmission planning to better evaluate future scenarios that account for intensifying load growth and the reliability requirements of a generation mix with increasing levels of intermittent resources.
  • Record Transmission Approved – The PJM Board authorized approximately $6.8 billion in transmission solutions in the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan – the highest one-year total in PJM’s history. Reliability needs were driven by factors including accelerating load growth, generator retirements and future capacity needs.

Despite these accomplishments, he said, there is tremendous work ahead regarding resource deactivation processes, further improvements to the interconnection process, and capacity and reserve markets. As the generation mix changes, load growth can be expected by 2030 to accelerate with an estimated 16,000 MW of data center growth, 4,000 MW to 5,000 MW of electric vehicle demand and more.

The pace of load growth combined with the high rate of generator retirements means that, “Time is not our friend,” Asthana said.

“What is in our control,” he said, “is the pace at which we work, at which we are able to collaborate on solutions and the discipline with which we prioritize the things we work on.”

Members Committee Chair Sharon Midgley, Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs for Exelon.

Members Committee Chair Sharon Midgley, Vice President of Federal Regulatory Affairs for Exelon, named capacity market reforms, long-term planning and the settlement of Winter Storm Elliott nonperformance charges as top accomplishments of 2023. She also pointed to transmission owners’ proposed updates to the Consolidated Transmission Owners Agreement, introduced in February of 2024, which is currently before the PJM Board.

“Our past successes are notable, but it is undeniable that we have significant opportunities ahead of us,” Midgley said. “As members, let’s use this annual meeting as an opportunity to recommit to supporting PJM’s core mission and working with our fellow stakeholders.”

Innovation at PJM

Innovation remains essential – in technology, processes and individual skill sets – to keep pace with change now and in the future. A panel discussion featured reflections by PJM leaders on how the organization is leading with innovation.

New emphasis and structure within PJM focuses innovation efforts on meeting the reliability needs of the energy transition, said David Souder, PJM Executive Director – System Operations. PJM pioneered real-time transient stability analysis to improve dispatcher system visibility, a process that now accomplishes in 10 minutes what used to take days.

From left to right: David Souder, PJM Executive Director – System Operations, Chantal-Aimee Hendrzak, PJM Executive Director – IT Operations & Architecture, and Emanuel Bernabeu, PJM Sr. Director – Applied Innovation & Analytics.

Sophisticated overlay mapping through PJM’s DIMA system allows dispatchers to see system interactions between gas pipelines, weather, the transmission system and, in the future, wildfire threats. PJM has taken lessons from a 2022 localized load shed spurred by storms in the AEP transmission zone in 2022, to help operators better evaluate load shed contingencies.

“We will need better tools and better processes to help us understand and manage risk,” Souder said.

Collaboration with other grid operators to share lessons learned and tools to safely incorporate dispatch and forecasting of wind and solar are essential, as PJM brings back ideas and figure out how to make them its own. Long-term regional transmission planning reform and scenario-based planning will be very important going forward, he added.

Emanuel Bernabeu, PJM Sr. Director – Applied Innovation & Analytics, said that four trends requiring innovation in the future are:

  • Study of behavior of inverter-based resources
  • The varying load patterns presented by data centers and electric vehicles
  • Evolving threats to and interdependencies among critical infrastructure, including the grid
  • Tradeoffs between energy policies, grid needs and market evolution.

“The convergence of these four trends is driving innovation,” Bernabeu said.

Effective management of data, as well as strengthening PJM skill sets in this area, are critical. PJM is streamlining data collection and management to be cross-functional with strong accountability for accuracy, said Chantal-Aimee Hendrzak, PJM Executive Director – IT Operations & Architecture.

Attendees at the 2024 PJM Annual Meeting of Members.

PJM manages more than 400 applications, she said, some of them developed by PJM and others by specialized vendors. Figuring out how to work with vendors and move that ball quickly is key to progress, she added.

Asked to reflect on core messages on innovation, Souder emphasized PJM’s history of creating necessary solutions for reliability, while Hendrzak reflected on new initiatives to collaborate across teams and allow time to invent and test new strategies.

“Markets are the greatest tool to facilitate and enable innovation to happen,” Bernabeu said. “It has happened through previous transitions and it will happen again on this one. One thing I want to highlight is the pace. We need to watch out on pace as we implement solutions and keep up with system needs, provide incentives and maintain reliability.”