PJM Winter Operations Summary Notes Unprecedented Exports

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PJM exported an unprecedented amount of electricity into neighboring grids during a Presidents Day-week cold snap, and overall, the grid performed reliably during a winter that saw varying weather trends for different parts of the broad PJM footprint, staff reported to the PJM Operating Committee April 8.

The Presidents Day cold snap established a completely new top 10 for peak winter interchange hours, the Winter Operations report (PDF) said. During those peak hours, net exports were three times higher than the 2020/2021 winter average, with a high of over 15,700 MW on Feb. 15.

As part of the larger Eastern Interconnection, PJM was able to supply neighboring systems during the storms on and around Presidents Day, as those systems were experiencing more severe weather conditions than PJM as a whole. PJM has also benefited from this interconnection assistance, drawing as much as 8,600 MW from other systems during the 2014 Polar Vortex.

Overall Winter Performance

PJM was able to operate reliably through the 2020–2021 winter. Generators in PJM performed well, the report said, with an average forced outage rate of 3.3% – the lowest outage rate of any recent winter, except for 2019/2020, which was characterized by very mild weather.

While temperatures were at or slightly above the average this winter for most of the region PJM serves, temperatures in the western transmission zones were below average.

Similarly, in February specifically, temperatures were close to normal for most of the PJM region and were well below normal in the western zones. Most of the PJM footprint was spared the extreme cold weather that occurred over the week of Presidents Day, while the Midwest faced low temperatures as much as 28 degrees below normal.

Still, PJM’s winter peak for the past winter did not approach PJM’s all-time winter peak. PJM’s peak winter load for the past winter occurred Jan. 29, reaching approximately 117,000 MW. PJM’s all-time winter peak is 143,295 MW, set on Feb. 20, 2015.

Cold Snap Takeaways

Paul McGlynn, Executive Director – System Operations, provided an overview (PDF) of winter operations, for PJM and the rest of the industry, coming out of the February cold snap and its impacts in Texas and elsewhere.

“We already do a lot in terms of generator preparedness ahead of peak load seasons,” McGlynn said. “This effort is going to look back at what we currently do and see if there are any gaps.”

In light of these events, McGlynn said, PJM is in the process of:

  • Reviewing our response to previous events and lessons learned and updating procedures and manuals as needed
  • Reviewing existing procedures for shedding customer load, including minimizing the impacts to critical electricity users (load), such as natural gas pipeline systems
  • Evaluating its cold-weather generator preparedness activities and working to validate the low-temperature operating criteria or limits for each generating unit in the system