Electric Grid Reliability at Risk by 2030, PJM Says

by James A. Bacon

The regional interconnection organization PJM has identified four trends that could put the reliability of the electric grid for Virginia and a dozen other member states at risk by 2030.

Dudes, that’s seven years away!

According to a new study, “Energy Transition in PJM: Resource Retirements, Replacements & Risks,” the four trends include:

  • The growth rate of electricity demand is likely to continue to increase from electrification coupled with the proliferation of high-demand data centers in the region.
  • Thermal generators are retiring at a rapid pace due to government and private sector policies as well as economics.
  • Retirements are at risk of outpacing the construction of new resources, due to a combination of industry forces, including siting and supply chain, whose long-term impacts are not fully known.
  • PJM’s interconnection queue is composed primarily of intermittent and limited-duration resources. Given the operating characteristics of these resources, we need multiple megawatts of these resources to replace 1 MW of thermal generation.

“For the first time in recent history, PJM could face decreasing reserve margins should these trends continue,” states the report.

There is uncertainty in these projections, PJM concedes. The degree to which reserve margins shrink depends on whether the “low entry” or “high entry” scenario for renewable power sources coming on line pans out. But given the fact that Virginia energy policy mandates a net zero-carbon electric grid by 2045 in Dominion territory and 2050 in Apco territory, while also pushing the automobile fleet from internal combustion engines to electric battery-powered, even the possibility of a low-entry scenario is troubling.

Furthermore, the PJM study projects out only to 2030. Virginia, like other states, will continue retiring fossil fuel plants and will rely increasingly upon intermittent renewable sources in subsequent years. Under current law, the grid will rely almost entirely upon intermittent renewable sources, requiring Virginia to import electricity from other states during cloudy days or still winds — if the capacity is available, and if the transmission-line capacity exists to conduct the electricity.

Not only will reliability be at risk, but electricity will be more expensive, the report hints. Pay attention to this sentence: “We need multiple megawatts of [renewable] resources to replace 1 MW of thermal generation.” While individual solar panels in a utility-scale facility represent the cheapest source of energy currently available, the system-wide cost will be much more expensive if it requires significant redundant capacity, transmission lines, or battery storage.

Our society is committing energy suicide, fiscal suicide, and social suicide simultaneously. At least Rome could blame the barbarians for its fall. We’ll have only ourselves to blame.

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13 responses to “Electric Grid Reliability at Risk by 2030, PJM Says”

  1. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    My solution:

    “Proposed FERC rule: In order to be approved for interconnection an intermittent generator must have sufficient backup.”

  2. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    This is sadly funny “we need multiple megawatts of these resources to replace 1 MW of thermal generation.”

    No amount of wind and solar, no matter how large, can replace 1 MW of thermal generation when the sun does not shine brightly and the wind does not blow strongly, which is true most nights and frequent days.

  3. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    Reports by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the Electric Power Research Institute addressing long term reliability and deep carbon emissions reductions make clear that Dominion and utilities that acting like it are taking a high risk strategy because the needed technologies have either not been developed or are not commercially viable.

  4. David Wojick Avatar
    David Wojick

    If they have a 28% reserve margin why did they ask us to turn of the lights and not use the stove on Christmas Eve.

    See my “Blackouts for Christmas, a sick grid gift”

    Reserve is supposed to be over peak need.

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      Because the fossil fuel sources failed…. the reliable renewable sources performed exactly as expected…

      1. Bob X from Texas Avatar
        Bob X from Texas

        In Texas, wind and solar fails us during snow events .

        1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
          Eric the half a troll

          Actually, the infamous Texas outages were due to the failure of the natural gas generators (as were last year’s NC/VA outages). It is very well documented (even here on BR).

          1. Stephen Haner Avatar
            Stephen Haner

            Actually, the gas line froze, rather than the plants failing. Pretty much everything was put out of action for while by that cold spell.

  5. The fruits of globalizing America — we get to be like just about every nation in Africa! or NoKo!

  6. Bubba1855 Avatar

    FYI…I click on the pjm.com website every day, well almost every day, and look at their ‘renewables’ generation…specially the wind and solar data. The generation numbers are all over the board from day to day.

  7. Bubba1855 Avatar

    Sadly, for this forum, no amount of screams and/or comments will alter the course of the ‘woke’ utility train. I suggest you invest in batteries to power your home for 5 days and sufficient solar panels to recharge those batteries in one day. In lieu of the above, invest in a fossil fuel generator that can power your home…or at least enough juice to run the minimum. But don’t panic…you have a few years to save up. If you wait until the ‘s… hits the fan’ all of the traditional retail outlets will be out of stock. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for ‘green energy’ as long as it makes sense. I am against nuclear because of the problem with waste disposal (I have a BS degree in Physics). I am against coal for environmental and waste disposal (holding ponds). But we need to move to ‘green’ in a controlled fashion that does not disrupt our communities. Hey, it took us 70 years to get to this 1.5C point. Lets take a few more years to seriously know we can come out of it. Keep in mind that VA is not going to solve global climate change. China and India are still, as we speak, building coal fired generation facilities. The majority of people on this planet want to increase their standard of living, which means more energy. Back to VA, I wish we had an independent, non-political, non-ideological, public power engineering and cost organization that could evaluate the numerous energy proposals that come forward. Sorry about my rant…sometimes I just need to let off ‘steam’…pardon the pun .

  8. Bob X from Texas Avatar
    Bob X from Texas

    Every city must Stop giving out building permits until the power grid is ready to provide enough power in the worst snowstorm and the worst heat wave.
    Problem solved.

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