The PJM Board of Managers in 2019 approved 80 baseline transmission projects to bolster system reliability, according to PJM’s annual Regional Transmission Expansion Plan Report, released Tuesday, March 3.
The RTEP report documents the critical planning work that is one of PJM’s three core functions, along with daily operations and running the wholesale electricity markets.
The emphasis on baseline projects reflects a shift in the drivers shaping the need for transmission enhancement and expansion through study year 2024. Flat load growth in the overall system, energy efficiency, generation shifts and aging infrastructure, among other factors, continue to move transmission need away from large-scale, cross-system backbone projects.
Instead, transmission investment growth is focused on projects driven by transmission owner criteria, market efficiency congestion, generator deactivation and localized reliability criteria needs.
The 80 baseline transmission projects are estimated to cost $1.27 billion. In 2019, the Board also authorized 95 new network transmission projects at a cost of approximately $100 million.
Report Puts 2019 Planning in Perspective
PJM publishes the RTEP report annually to convey planning study results from throughout the year, provide context for these studies and explain the rationale behind transmission system needs.
RTEP studies test the transmission system against the mandatory national standards of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, as well as PJM regional standards. The studies look from one to 15 years into the future to identify transmission overloads, voltage limitations and other potential problems stemming from violations of reliability standards and other factors.
Proposals for new generators or transmission resources to connect to the grid also are evaluated through PJM’s planning process, as are proposed generation retirements. Analyses assess their impact to the grid and the potential need for additional transmission enhancements.
Load Forecast Trends
Load forecasts from the past five years reflect broader trends in the U.S. economy and PJM model refinements to capture evolution in the way customers use electricity. These include more efficient manufacturing equipment and home appliances, and distributed energy resources such as roof-top solar installations. Countering this overall trend toward slower load growth are pockets of significant load growth related to data-center expansion and natural gas processing plants (fracking).
Renewable Power Continues to Grow
Correspondingly, PJM’s interconnection queue process continues to see renewable-powered generation growth.
As of Dec. 31, 2019, wind-powered generators represented queued requests for capacity interconnection rights (CIRs) totaling 6,240 MW. Those CIRs – which are necessary to sell electricity into the PJM markets – correspond to nameplate capacity of 31,206 MW.
Similarly, queued, solar-powered generator requests for CIRs totaled 35,759 MW, corresponding to nameplate capacity of 61,488 MW.
Proposal Window Yields 15 Proposals
In the proposal window open July 3 to Sept. 6, 2019, PJM received 15 proposals from four entities.
More than 60,000 MW of interconnection requests were actively under study during 2019. PJM analyzed and issued reports for 550 feasibility studies and 379 system impact studies.
Also in 2019, PJM received 36 deactivation notifications, representing 7,650 MW. This included 12 coal unit deactivations totaling 2,750 MW. All transmission expansion planning was successfully completed with the new deactivations, along with the withdrawal of a significant number of previously submitted deactivations.
A Decade of Transmission Expansion
Since the first proposal window opened in 1999, PJM markets have attracted generation proposals totaling over 606,000 MW of nameplate capacity across all fuel types.
In that time, the PJM Board has approved transmission system enhancements totaling over $37 billion. Of this, $30.9 billion represents baseline projects. Another $6.4 billion represents network facilities to enable nearly 90,000 MW of new generation to interconnect reliably.