Manu Asthana Focuses on Maintaining Reliability Amid Unexpected Challenges at Online Annual Meeting

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PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana outlined his priorities for stakeholders during PJM’s Annual Meeting Monday, while expressing faith in the system’s central role in the current pandemic as well as the nation’s long-term “energy transformation.”

Four months into his job at PJM, Asthana received a warm welcome at this year’s Annual Meeting for PJM’s 1,000-plus members. The meeting is usually held at various venues within PJM’s footprint of 13 states and the District of Columbia, but this year was limited to Webex, based on continuing coronavirus-related travel and social distancing policies.

During the Members Committee event Monday, Asthana thanked members for working together on “complex, important” issues such as the capacity market changes ordered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), changes to PJM’s credit rules to protect stakeholders, the integration of storage resources into the system, and PJM’s ongoing efforts to operate reliability through the global pandemic.

PJM’s response to FERC’s order on the Minimum Offer Price Rule, or MOPR, is the result of the organization’s commitment to listen wholeheartedly and respond in collaboration to member and stakeholder concerns, he said. The success of that open approach, both in PJM’s response to the FERC order and the passage of credit rule reform, hopefully reflects “that the way we went about the process was really steeped in listening.”

As he did earlier this week in a keynote speech for the Energy Policy Roundtable in the PJM Footprint for power industry professionals, Asthana identified his three priorities as:

  • Maintaining reliability of the bulk electrical system
  • Developing working relationships and solving challenging issues with stakeholders
  • Developing people within PJM

He also explained why he joined PJM.

“I wanted to have an impact that was greater than myself and the organization that I led. I saw an opportunity to serve 65 million people and saw our nation is going through an energy transformation driven by environmental policies and technology … I saw PJM as potentially being at the center of that,” he said. “Together we have an incredible opportunity to harness the power of our markets to facilitate this transition in a way to benefit the 65 million people who are counting on us. Many of them don’t even know about us, and yet they are still counting on us to get it right.”

Asthana suggested that the future of PJM “is potentially very different from the grid that we have today,” with very different generation resources and reliability requirements. PJM can facilitate that strategic conversation going forward, framing alternatives, working with and listening to stakeholders for their collective thoughts, and striving to make choices together, he said.

PJM already delivers value to consumers and society, at an estimated savings of between $3 billion and $4 billion annually. “We can go up from there,” Asthana said. “The only way we get there is figuring this out together with our Board of Managers, our members and our stakeholders.”

The critical importance of keeping the power flowing is underscored by the ongoing health crisis, he said. PJM has taken a number of actions to protect its critical workers – including the setup of a third control room to secure service continuity via a team of sequestered operators – while also learning from the lessons of an unprecedented event.

“The reliable operation of the bulk power system is our number one mission,” he said, “particularly in this time when you think about the hospitals and the healthcare organizations counting on us to get it right and the people at home counting on us to get it right.”