PJM: Gas plant buildout, coal retirements don't threaten reliability

Dive Brief:

  • An influx of gas-fired generation and the closing of coal-fired plants will not adversely affect reliability in PJM Interconnection’s service area, according to a new report from the RTO.

  • The report did note, however, that more reliance on any single generation type does introduce resilience risks not accounted for under traditional reliability standards.

  • PJM’s analysis found that portfolios composed of up to 86% gas-fired generation could maintain reliability and did not identify an upper limit for natural gas resources.

Dive Insight:

PJM is leading the nation in the buildout of natural gas-fired power plants with 15 GW under construction and another 4 GW expected. That buildout, however has raised concerns among some stakeholders, as well as the recent trend of coal-fired plant retirements. 

The report notes, however, that the analysis did not fully capture risks such as gas deliverability that could occur as a result of extreme cold weather or political or economic shocks.

The report did note that higher amounts of wind and solar capacity could result in a decrease in operational reliability, and said in particular that more than 20% solar power in a system could result in violations of some of its operating margins, unless backed by “a sufficient amount of reliability service.”

The report noted that PJM’s resource mix has become more evenly balanced over time. In 2005, coal and nuclear power accounted for 91% of electricity generated in PJM.

But between 2010 and 2016, coal generation accounted for 79% of retired capacity while gas-fired generation and renewables accounted for 87% of new capacity that came online. In 2016, PJM’s installed capacity consisted of 33% coal, 33% gas, 18% nuclear, and 6% renewables (including hydropower). 

“This analysis underscores our responsibility to continue to operate the system reliably, and explore the role of resilience, the ability to tolerate unforeseen shocks and continue to deliver electricity,” Andy Ott, PJM’s CEO, said in a statement.

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Filed Under: Generation Transmission & Distribution Solar & Renewables Distributed Energy Efficiency & Demand Response Regulation & Policy
Top image credit: Spectra Energy