PJM General Session Focuses on Cooperation, Shared Reliability Goals

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Industry representatives from across the energy sector shared experiences and perspectives at the PJM General Session during the 2023 Annual Meeting during its second day on May 2 in Cambridge, Maryland.

Conversations focused on the meeting theme of “Ensuring Reliability and Security of the Grid Through the Energy Transition.” 

The General Session began with remarks by Caitlin Durkovich, Special Assistant to President Biden and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor for Resilience and Response at the White House National Security Council. Next, grid operator representatives from across the U.S. shared lessons learned and strategies for moving forward on respective challenges in planning, markets and operations.

PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana introduced Durkovich, with whom he serves on the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council, to say he welcomed her remarks on grid infrastructure cybersecurity and physical security.

‘All Hazards Approach’

With responsibility for Biden administration initiatives to strengthen the federal response to physical, cyber and climate-related threats to critical infrastructure, Durkovich described her broad responsibilities as an “all-hazards approach to resilience.” 

In a bulk electric system so critical to society and of which 80% is privately owned, communication and partnership are essential to safety and security, she said.

The bulk electric system is one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S., she said. And as physical attacks on grid equipment mount and cyber threats multiply, Durkovich urged PJM members and stakeholders to drive security considerations deep into their business cultures. This includes practices that meet and exceed industry standards, she added.

The increasing aggressiveness of adversaries who may compromise critical infrastructure also requires closer relationships between private sector entities like PJM and its stakeholders and the federal government.

The Biden administration is highly focused on the needs of the power sector, resolving issues such as transformer shortages, reforming the transmission planning process and deploying resources approved by new laws, including the Inflation Reduction Act, she said. Moving forward, Durkovich appealed to PJM and its members to maintain open lines of communication on physical and cyber threats, invest in resilience beyond mere compliance, and strengthen relationships with security personnel at all levels of government.

Learning From Other Grid Operators    

PJM invited leaders from surrounding RTOs and ISOs to participate in a brainstorming session on the shared challenges of transitioning to a new fuel mix.

“As always, reliability is and always will be job No. 1,” moderator Stu Bresler, Sr. Vice President – Market Services, said in introducing the panel.

“We have some time, but we don’t have a lot of time to really prepare and evolve to get through this transition reliably and as cost-effectively as possible, and we all have to work together to make that happen,” Bresler said. “There’s a real opportunity here to learn from each other.”

Bresler was joined on the panel by:

  • Melissa Seymour, Vice President – External Affairs, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)
  • Eric D. Johnson, Director – External Affairs, ISO New England
  • David Kelley, Vice President – Engineering, Southwest Power Pool (SPP)
  • Rana Mukerji, Sr. Vice President – Market Structures, New York ISO

All touched on common themes – among them, maintaining reliability, accurately accrediting capacity, building transmission, integrating states’ decarbonization goals, anticipating retirements and improving forecasting.

MISO

MISO is looking at all of the aspects of the transition affecting the system through a new reliability imperative.

Transmission is a strong focus, Seymour said, given that generation resources are fairly remote from load. Like her colleagues on the panel, she stressed the importance of transmission planning, saying the backbone MISO had planned in 2011 is already fully subscribed, and new projects may take up to a decade to be realized.

ISO New England

ISO New England is facing the transition with precarious resources. These include a sole remaining coal plant facing public pressure to shut down and reliance on liquid natural gas shipped from offshore terminals in Trinidad and Tobago.

Getting projects sited has also been a huge challenge for the grid operator, Johnson said.

ISO New England also is working to meet states’ clean energy goals by 2050; at the same time, its research shows the region’s transmission will be overloaded in that time frame.

NYISO

In New York, the system faces a mandate of achieving 70% renewable generation by 2030 and 100% by 2040, Mukerji said.

Currently, NYISO is about 50% carbon-free generation, composed mostly of nuclear and hydropower. While the state offers incentives to procure solar, wind and energy storage, he said, the quantities of these resources that are needed will exceed those mandated by the state to reach its 70% target.

To achieve a 100% mix of renewable resources, Mukerji said, the system will need all of the conventional fleet it has to be replaced with dispatchable, carbon-free resources. As a result, NYISO cannot afford to prematurely retire any units.

SPP

Kelley, of SPP, emphasized that the transition is already here; wind is now the leading generation resource in SPP at 37% of the fuel mix.

SPP has established three stakeholder efforts to examine resource adequacy, one of which includes state regulatory bodies.

Kelley said he couldn’t stress enough the importance of keeping up with transmission planning. Assumptions of transmission needs once planned for 10 years out are instead materializing in three to five years, he said.

Reliability Remains North Star

Mark Takahashi, Chair – PJM Board of Managers, closed the 2023 Annual Meeting with thanks for all participants’ collaboration and focus on the shared goal of maintaining reliable grid operations now and in the future.

“Regardless of what state policies we have, regardless of where we are in the value chain of stakeholders, I think it is fair to say reliability is first and foremost among our objectives,” Takahashi said. “That is the very common theme we take away.”

As maintaining resource adequacy remains an increasingly pressing concern, he added, the importance of collaboration and communication is vital going forward. “We have time, but we don’t have time to waste,” he said. “That is our new tagline.”