PJM Presents Proposal for Needed Grid Upgrades

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PJM on Tuesday presented stakeholders with the proposal it will recommend to its Board of Managers to expand the regional transmission system to meet the needs of data center growth, generator retirement and new generation resource capacity in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Planning Window 3, which was open Feb. 24 to May 31, solicited competitive proposals to address significant impacts to the grid expected in the near future from new electricity demand combined with the retirement of fossil fuel generators. Factors considered include a 7,500 MW increase in demand due to data center additions to the system in Virginia and Maryland as well as widespread effects from the recent deactivation of more than 11,000 MW of generation across the PJM footprint of 13 states and Washington, D.C.

As part of its competitive planning process, PJM regularly administers “windows,” or a set period of time for transmission developers to offer solutions to a set of transmission reliability needs published by PJM. These needs are based on standards established by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, and future “violations” of these standards, caused by additional electricity demand in an area or loss of generation due to retirements, are examples of the main drivers for planned transmission expansion.

The solution presented (PDF) at the Oct. 31 meeting of the Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee was among the three shortlist scenarios discussed at that group’s Oct. 3 meeting (PDF). PJM heard feedback from various stakeholders during presentation of the shortlist of solution packages Oct. 3 and solicited additional comments Tuesday.

The recommended proposal was selected based on four main criteria:

  • Effectiveness to meet system needs through 2028
  • Ability to expand to meet system needs beyond 2028
  • Minimizing of local impacts by using existing rights of way, where possible
  • Confidence in costs

The combined proposed cost of all solutions is approximately $5 billion.

Ken Seiler, Sr. Vice President – Planning, told stakeholders on Tuesday that the collection of projects selected meet the current system needs but will also provide long-term benefits to the entire PJM system for reliability and facilitate the interconnection of new resources.

He noted that the electrical needs presented by the changes in the system are reflected in the significant cost of the collective solution. “It’s well-documented that there’s going to be  a lot more transmission required as we go through the energy transition, and this is an area that’s a prime example of that,” Seiler said. “We’re going to need a number of projects to meet those needs.”

The solution includes new substations, new transmission lines and improvements to existing facilities. A majority of the project components utilize existing facilities and rights of way to reduce impacts to local areas. The upgrades will provide regional benefits well beyond the local drivers.

In all, 72 proposals were received from 10 entities in PJM’s competitive planning process, six of which are incumbent transmission owners. Twenty-two of the proposals were upgrades to existing infrastructure. The remaining 50 represented greenfield, or new-build, projects.

The recommended solution includes components of proposals submitted by Dominion, FirstEnergy, Exelon, LS Power, NextEra, Transource and PSEG.

The proposal will be presented a second time to stakeholders at the Dec. 5 Transmission Expansion Advisory Committee meeting before being brought to the Board.