With cold temps, PJM has highest winter demand since 2015


The cold snap that continues to engulf much of the United States has brought PJM the highest winter load since 2015 and potentially one of the top 10 winter peaks (XLSX).

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, temperatures remained frigid across the RTO, and at 8 a.m. (eastern) the system load was 136,125 megawatts. Temperatures moderated in the east and south as the day progressed.

 According to Chris Pilong, director – Dispatch, “During these extremely cold temperatures and adverse weather conditions, PJM and its members continue to be prepared to meet the demands of the system and have the necessary generation reserves to cover the load with no projected transmission system constraints or major gas pipeline supply issues.”

Pilong added that equipment – such as transformers and substations – throughout the PJM system was in good shape, as was generation performance.

He also noted a slight change in the fuel mix, thanks to the temperatures.

Typically, natural gas is cheaper under lighter load/more moderate temperature combinations, with gas prices rising as the temperatures drop.

As the region sees colder temperatures and an increased need for natural gas for residential and commercial heating, the price of natural gas rises and generators with dual-fuel capabilities often elect to switch to their second fuel (generally oil) as an economic decision.

 The National Weather Service has issued hazardous weather condition warnings for much of PJM’s footprint, with winter storm warnings along the Atlantic Coast for Wednesday night into Thursday.

PJM expects the extreme cold weather to return for Friday and Saturday and has issued Cold Weather Alerts for the RTO those two days. A Cold Weather Alert remains in effect for the Western region Thursday.

A cold weather alert prepares personnel and facilities for expected extreme cold weather conditions, when actual temperatures fall near or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. PJM communicates with generator owners and tells them to be prepared to call in additional staff to get all generating units running for the morning load pickup. They must take extra care to maintain the equipment so that it doesn’t freeze in the cold weather. During a cold weather alert, PJM also cancels or postpones planned maintenance outages to ensure the availability of resources.

Load forecast estimates for the weekend:

  • Friday, Jan. 5: 133,389 MW
  • Saturday, Jan. 6: 128,189 MW
  • Sunday, Jan. 7: 119,000 MW