O’Brien, Bresler present year in review to members

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Stu Bresler, senior vice president – Operations & Markets, and Tom O’Brien, senior vice president and chief information officer, provided the 2017 year in review at the PJM Members Committee meeting May 16.

The two presented both highlights and a glimpse of what the grid operator will do moving forward.

Operations, Markets and Planning

Bresler called the solar eclipse a “tremendous learning experience,” and said PJM will incorporate the lessons learned for the next solar eclipse in 2024, which will cover much of the PJM footprint.

For PJM’s control room – or any control room – the challenge is visualization, so that dispatchers can assimilate high volumes of data and act effectively. Bresler cited DIMA (the Dispatch Interactive Mapping Application) as a “significant step forward,” which can give dispatchers a snapshot of a wide area, zooming in when needed.

Bresler also touched on the cold weather – which was not just a challenge during the cold snap of December 2017–January 2018, but through the March nor’easters.

He pointed out that a significant number of end-use customers were affected by the March storms (March 2, March 7 and March 21) but there were no significant impacts to the transmission system.

“We really relied on our established coordination processes with you, our members,” said Bresler, “to help us monitor and maintain the system at that time.”

What was also significant during the cold snap was the way uplift “reared its ugly head” in the market. Bresler compared the cold snap (and its $70 million in uplift) to the two previous years, when uplift was not more than $30 million.

Bresler said PJM did a “tremendous amount of analytics” in reviewing the cost-to-benefit ratio in market efficiency planning projects. He said among the planning challenges PJM faces is dealing with aging infrastructure, as “the most important thing is that we remain reliable,” and how to incorporate distributed energy resources into the planning process.

While large interregional projects are still possible, Bresler said because other grid operators such as MISO have their own large projects, the RTOs have focused more on smaller, more targeted projects.

Bresler also listed multiple fuel cost policy reviews as an accomplishment in 2017.  He said that PJM, the stakeholders and the Independent Market Monitor shared the goal of ensuring the necessary rigor is applied to the policies and were able work together, even if they didn’t always agree.

Security and Member Relations

O’Brien looked at the risks facing the power grid such as severe storms, geomagnetic disturbances and electromagnetic pulses along with cyber and physical attacks on the grid.

Adversaries are becoming increasingly capable and determined and they want to disrupt everyone. In stressing the importance of interdependent infrastructures, O’Brien said, “If we lose telecommunications, we’re blind.”

O’Brien said that PJM participates in the Cyber Risk Information Sharing Program (CRISP), which focuses on bringing the data from 30 or 40 utilities together, then matching it with classified data from cybersecurity attack attempts. The program tries to better inform utilities on what they need to block on their security systems, based on the intelligence.

“Imagine a future where 500 utilities were engaged and we expanded to cross-sector analysis,” O’Brien said. “The reality is that the adversaries are targeting other critical infrastructures.  Marrying that data with threat intelligence would improve our analysis and response.”

O’Brien said that PJM is working on giving members better views, better customization for its information technology data, and better information.  It’s the notion of “continuous improvement.”

“We can’t do that without member feedback,” he said, pointing out that innovations such as the Tech Change Forum came directly from member feedback. “How do we create an experience that’s of value to you?”