Grid operators, states and utilities need to change planning processes to allocate power supplies for the whole year, not just their annual peak demand points, panelists said on Wednesday at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission technical conference on electric reliability.
Instead of basing analysis on historical data, grid operators and others responsible for "resource adequacy" should use probabilistic analysis to account for the increased variability and uncertainty in weather and climate, panelists said.
FERC should require grid operators to study the risks their systems face from extreme weather and prepare plans to mitigate those risks, according to Peter Brandien, vice president of system operations and market administration for ISO New England (ISO-NE).
In a year of record setting heat in the West and a deep-freeze that triggered three days of blackouts in Texas, panelists at FERC’s annual grid reliability technical conference agreed resource adequacy planning — the process of making sure states and regions have enough power supplies — needs to evolve.
Resource adequacy and transmission planning has typically focused on making sure grid operators can meet their annual peak demand, assuming if that can be met, supplies will be adequate at all other times, according to Branden Sudduth, vice president of reliability planning and performance analysis for the Western Electricity Coordinating Council.
However, extreme weather, changing climate patterns and the shift toward variable energy resources like wind and solar can put unexpected stress on the electric system, upsetting the traditional planning calculus that the greatest stress comes during the annual peak hour, Sudduth said.
Transmission planners should be required to consider specific scenarios, adopt "wide-area" coordination, meet performance criteria and adopt strategies to reduce the effects of extreme weather, according to Sudduth.
Current planning models fail to account for low probability, high impact, severe weather in a systematic way, leaving regional grid operators and others unprepared for those events, ISO-NE’s Brandien said.
Brandien called for entities responsible for resource adequacy to be required to study their systems to understand their risks from extreme weather and climate change, and to prepare plans to address those risks, which could include building more transmission lines.
"I feel like I'm on the train track at the end of the tunnel and the light is getting bigger and bigger, ready to run me over," Brandien said. "I don't think we should be putting it off, having more conversations, waiting for the next energy shortfall, to then take action."
Resource adequacy planning needs "refinement," according to Aubrey Johnson, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) executive director for system planning and competitive transmission.
In MISO, tight supply and demand conditions used to happen on a few days in the summer, but now those conditions occur in all seasons, Johnson said. MISO has an annual capacity auction, but is considering seasonal auctions to address that issue.
Panelists called for increased coordination between the electric and natural gas sectors to make sure gas-fired power plants have fuel supplies when needed.
Interstate natural gas pipelines should be required to meet cybersecurity and physical security standards that apply to the power sector, according to Brandien.
FERC Chairman Richard Glick has called for mandatory cyber and physical security standards for pipeline companies.
Besides helping deal with extreme weather, tighter coordination between the power and gas sectors is needed to deal with the shift towards renewable energy, according to Lisa Larroque Alexander, Sempra’s senior vice president for corporate affairs.
In California, gas-fired power plants increasingly ramp up at the end of the day as solar generation plunges.
"Gas-grid interdependence is key, and cross planning is essential, but I think we can expect these issues to continue to increase even more," Alexander said.
The calls for increased electric-gas system coordination and resource adequacy planning requirements come about a week after FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. issued a preliminary report on the February power outages in Texas affecting about 4.5 million homes and businesses and contributing to at least 210 deaths, according to Texas health officials.
FERC and NERC staff recommended new requirements for power plants to make sure they can handle cold weather. They also said Texas should consider adding more transmission connections to neighboring grid systems.