PJM sees the need for thermal power plants to protect against the risk of blackouts in the context of increasing electrification

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Diving brief:

  • The combination of around 33 GW of electrification load with a 70% carbon-free generation fleet strongly shifts the risk of blackouts to winter compared to summer, reinforcing the need for enough power plants to fossil and nuclear fuels to meet demand, PJM Interconnection said in a report Tuesday.

  • The analysis shows a growing need for resources that can deliver power quickly as wind and solar power decline during the afternoon as electricity consumption increases, PJM said in the report, Energy transition in PJM: emerging characteristics of a decarbonizing network. The ramp in 2035 could reach 73 GW on some winter days, and natural gas and coal generation provided about half of the ramp capacity according to modeling conducted by PJM, according to the report.

  • “Increased electrification and the move to a winter peak system will fundamentally change what it means to be reliable in PJM,” said Glen Thomas, president of the PJM Power Providers Group, a trade organization, on Wednesday. “Decarbonization is important, but it has to be done reliably, and reliability is going to be more difficult than it has been in the past.”

Overview of the dive:

The PJM report is based on one issued in December looking at issues such as electrification. The report’s findings should be seen as “benchmarks” for future study and discussion, according to the network operator.

The report is based on three 2035 scenarios: a 40% carbon-free “base” scenario, a 50% “political” scenario corresponding to the state’s energy objectives in the PJM zone and a 70% “accelerated” scenario. .

Carbon-free resources accounted for about 39% of the electricity generated at PJM in 2021, according to Monitoring Analytics, the network operator’s market monitor.

Last year, gas generation accounted for 37.9% of electricity produced at PJM, followed by nuclear at 32.8%, coal at 22.2%, and wind, solar and hydro. hydro at 6.2% combined, Monitoring Analytics said in a statement. annual market report released in March.

PJM system planners have long focused on the hottest summer days, and generators and the market have paid little attention to winter, according to Union senior energy analyst Mike Jacobs. of Concerned Scientists.

However, with electrification, PJM expects winter demand to increase by 15% and summer load to climb by 7%, making winter the grid operator’s peak period, according to the network operator analysis.

“To make the ops realize that we’re tight in winter, just focus on the mind because right now winter hasn’t been such a priority, and I think that’s that’s why we’ve had incidents in winter that scare people,” Jacobs said Wednesday, referring to winter storm Uri and the polar vortex of 2014.

Instead of peak electricity use for a few hours in the late afternoon on a hot summer day, it would occur in the winter, starting around 6 p.m. and lasting longer, according to Thomas. “It’s a pretty fundamental change,” he said, noting that it has implications for how to respond to the peak period.

Winter charging form with electrification

Extract of PJM interconnection May 18, 2022

This change could affect how PJM plans to have enough power in winter, Jacobs said, noting that wind farms perform well in winter while solar suffers.

With electrification, PJM in its latest report found that the effective carrying capacity of onshore and offshore wind, or ELCC – a measure of the reliability value of a resource – drops from 6% and 15% respectively to 22% and 45%. Solar’s ELCC drops to 6% from 32% and solar coupled with energy storage drops to 31% from 35% in the electrification scenario.

“These [PJM] reports indicate that we need to be smarter about how we look at resource adequacy, and this attention to winter and ELCC usage have been key steps in being able to have this conversation,” said said Jacobs. “There is no doubt that we are going to have to make changes during this transition.”

In addition to shifting resource adequacy risk from PJM to winter, electrification increases the role that retail rate design and energy storage could play in managing high levels of renewable energy. , according to the report.

The study indicates that market reforms are needed to encourage operational flexibility, according to PJM.

In a scenario of high renewable energy penetration, energy storage provided more than 80% of the necessary reserves. “There is an opportunity for PJM and stakeholders to explore the participation of renewable resources in the reserves market,” the network operator said.

PJM said the study shows transmission, energy storage and emerging technologies will be needed to manage the evolution of the grid across its footprint, which spans 13 mid-Atlantic and North American states. Midwest and the District of Columbia.

According to the scenarios studied by PJM, gas generation fell by approximately 40% and coal generation by approximately 35% from the base scenario to the accelerated scenario, leading to a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately 40% , PJM said in the report.

Annual energy production by fuel type

Extract of PJM interconnection May 18, 2022

PJM said it plans to refine the study in future reports by assessing issues such as accelerated coal and gas plant retirements, dispatchable renewable resources and potential transmission expansion.

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