PJM Winter Operations Report Reflects Fuel Inventory Management Efforts

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The PJM grid performed reliably during a winter marked by relatively mild weather conditions and fuel supply management efforts, the grid operator noted in its winter operations report published ahead of its April 14 Operating Committee meeting.

Throughout the winter, PJM and stakeholders worked to monitor and maintain adequate inventories of fuel for continued, reliable grid operations in addition to traditional cold weather preparations.

The report (PDF) noted energy use this past winter peaked on Jan. 27 at around 129,000 MW. PJM’s all-time winter peak of more than 143,000 MW was recorded during the winter of 2014/2015.

Overall temperatures approached average levels this winter. While December ranked in the top three warmest Decembers for nearly every state in the PJM footprint, a below-average January followed, with all seven of the winter’s Cold Weather Alerts taking place during that month.

Ensuring Adequate Fuel Supplies and Operational Flexibility

Faced with global fuel availability and supply chain challenges heading into the winter, PJM approached stakeholders in the fall with a temporary change to Maximum Emergency procedures to allow affected electricity generators to replenish their fuel stockpiles when they were not needed to maintain the reliability of the grid.

PJM Members endorsed these temporary Manual changes effective Oct. 21, allowing generators whose fuel supplies of coal or oil fell below a specified level to offer their generators under the Maximum Emergency status. This offer status effectively removed the resources from the “economic stack” while they replenished their fuel supplies for the depths of winter.

The changes helped PJM generators avoid major fuel supply concerns, with stockpiles gradually increasing from October through the end of December, before being used gradually over January and February.

In January, stakeholders endorsed a second temporary change to Manual 13 that would give greater flexibility to natural gas generators, increasing the minimum combined-cycle remaining run hours from 16 to 24, to better align with gas pipeline industry practices.

With long-term operations in mind, stakeholders extended an April deadline for those temporary Manual changes to expire in order to allow time for PJM and stakeholders to work on more permanent solutions.

These temporary changes to address fuel inventory concerns took place in addition to PJM’s regular winter preparations, in all reflecting lessons learned from extreme winter weather events during February 2021.

Given low coal and oil stockpiles and supply chain issues across the country, PJM also began collecting fuel inventory data weekly through the winter to provide a clearer picture of fuel availability.

Generation Mix

PJM observed growing contributions from renewable resources this past winter, reflecting a longtime trend.

Wind resources contributed about 4,460 MW, while solar resources accounted for 494 MW. In all, renewable resources made up 7% of the fuel mix, with coal, nuclear and gas-fired resources accounting for 23%, 33% and 36% respectively.

Coal’s share of the fuel mix decreased from last winter, while natural gas and renewables increased their shares. The share of nuclear generation remained consistent with the winter of 2020/2021.