The Interconnection Process: Does PJM ‘Approve’ New Generation?

Every now and then you might read that PJM has “approved” a new generator to be built within the area it serves. We don’t actually “approve” generators, however.

Here’s a simple explanation of how PJM’s generation interconnection process works:

When a generation developer begins the process to link (or “interconnect”) the unit to the grid, PJM reviews the project and lets the developer know what improvements need to be made to the transmission system as well as how much it will cost in order to connect. From there the developer decides whether or not it wants to continue with its project.

PJM doesn’t judge whether a generator should or should not be built. We just determine what needs to happen for the project to work to connect to the grid and how much that will cost the developer.

You can read more on PJM’s website.

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Total Solar Eclipse Could Challenge European Grid

According to a story published by the Guardian, a solar eclipse on Friday could cause the European power grid to suddenly lose up to 35,000 megawatts of capacity from solar generation.  One megawatt of electricity is enough to power about 800 U.S. homes.

While the sudden drop in generation certainly will challenge European grid operators, according to the story, they have prepared for more than a year for the event and are confident the system will cope. European consumers should notice nothing unusual (other than a temporarily darkened sky).

Those of us in North America will not experience any effects of the solar eclipse. It will still be night when the eclipse occurs, so it will be business as usual. Second, Europe currently relies far more heavily on solar energy for electricity generation than in North America and in PJM.

HT: The Guardian

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Ancillary Services Keep the Grid Stable

When people think of PJM’s wholesale markets, most often they’re thinking of the energy and capacity markets. PJM’s Energy Market makes sure power is available in real-time and for the upcoming day. PJM’s Capacity Market ensures supplies three years in advance. However, PJM also operates markets for “ancillary services” that keep the grid stable as electricity flows from generators to consumers. PJM operates two of these markets: the Synchronized Reserve Market and the Regulation Market.

While they’re not PJM’s largest markets, they are absolutely necessary to keep the grid reliable.

Synchronized Reserve Market

Synchronized reserve supplies electricity if the grid has an unexpected need for more power on short notice. This can happen if generators experience unexpected outages or if there is an unusual spike in energy demand, for example, because of the weather. Synchronized reserve is like a spare tire for your car – a backup in case of an emergency.

Generating units or demand response participants that supply synchronized reserve can boost their output or respond quickly to supply the needed power.

Regulation Market

Regulation service stabilizes the grid during the constant, short-term changes in energy use. Fluctuations in energy use happen in seconds, so regulation works instantaneously to balance supply and demand. If supply and demand are not balanced, power equipment can be damaged or blackouts could occur.

Energy storage devices such as water heaters and plug-in electric vehicles can provide regulation service because they can react to PJM’s signals quickly and only need to provide power for short periods of time. (This is compared to a traditional generator, which can provide power for long intervals, but also takes far longer to change its output.)

You can learn more about how water heaters and plug-in electric vehicles can sell power into PJM as well as more about PJM’s ancillary services on the Learning Center.

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Get the Inside Scoop from PJM Inside Lines

Each week, PJM facilitates multiple meetings, tracks about 30 issues through the stakeholder process, regularly files with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and meets with dozens of governmental and regulatory authorities, industry groups, members and peer organizations. As a result, news happens often at PJM.

To better share this news, PJM launched a new company news site that provides current, important PJM news largely geared to stakeholders. PJM Inside Lines is the company’s official new site.

The site will be updated as news occurs. It replaces the monthly Inside Lines newsletter, which was sent directly to subscribers. This site is unique from www.pjm.com and Plugged In because it focuses on news with broader appeal to members and others who are impacted by the stakeholder process as well as regulatory decisions.

Plugged In continues to provide brief and unique insights into PJM and the energy industry and is geared to a general audience.

PJM Inside Lines has added new features. The “Tips and Tools” feature highlights resources on www.pjm.com and “City Spotlight” highlights a city within the PJM footprint. The executive column will continue to provide a perspective on key issues impacting PJM and its stakeholders.

Inside Lines Screenshot

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PJM Prepped for Presidents Day Weekend Cold

You’ve probably already felt it if you stepped outside today… the region PJM serves is in another spell of extremely cold weather.

Electricity demand is expected to rise as the thermometer drops, but PJM does not anticipate problems meeting the demand for electricity. As always, PJM and its members are keeping a close watch on system conditions. PJM also has asked transmission and generation owners to defer any maintenance that would keep generators transmission lines out of service in order to make sure as many resources are available as possible.

PJM anticipates that it will meet the highest demand of this cold snap on Presidents Day, serving an estimated 132,000 to 134,000 megawatts of demand. That’s pretty high for a holiday. In January, the highest demand was 136,669 megawatts – but that was on a normal workday.

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Sunday’s Big Game First to Be Lit by Energy Efficient LEDs

Here is a bit of interesting info that the U.S. Energy Information Association posted today. According to them, University of Phoenix Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLIX, replaced more than 780 metal halide high-intensity discharge fixtures with 312 highly energy efficient LED stadium fixtures before the start of the 2014 NFL season.

From the EIA:

University of Phoenix Stadium was the first stadium in the NFL to light its playing field using only LEDs. The new lights draw approximately 310 kilowatts of energy compared with the 1,240 kilowatts required by the old system, a savings of about 75%. Assuming an electricity cost of 15 cents per kilowatthour, that means the new LED lighting costs about $47 per hour to light the field, compared to $186 per hour using the HID lighting system. Lighting maintenance costs for LEDs are also expected to be lower. The vendor also projects a 30% decrease in stadium cooling costs as a result of the LED fixtures, which generate less heat than HID lights.

Read more here.

(HT: EIA)

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PJM Files “Stop-Gap” Proposal for Demand Response Participation in Capacity Market

In the wake of a federal appeals court vacating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Order 745, the role of demand response in wholesale markets is up in the air. Despite this uncertainty, PJM still has a responsibility to ensure the grid’s reliability and its markets’ efficiency.

PJM has filed with the FERC a “stop-gap” or “temporary detour” proposal that will allow demand response to continue to participate in PJM’s capacity market (called the Reliability Pricing Model) in a way that is consistent with the appeals court’s ruling. PJM will only implement these changes if the United States Supreme Court denies the Commission’s petitions to review the case, which is ultimately about the FERC’s jurisdiction over demand response as a product.

The filing is available on PJM’s website.

Learn more about demand response on the PJM Learning Center.

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The Polar Vortex, One Year Later

Well here we are again, facing another cold snap.

At this time a year ago, the PJM region and the eastern U.S. were in the throes of the bitter cold of the Polar Vortex. On Jan. 7, 2014, the cold drove demand for electricity to PJM’s highest-ever winter usage. Eight of the 10 highest winter peaks in PJM happened in last January’s extreme cold.

The Polar Vortex in 2014 uncovered issues that needed to be addressed – especially poor generator performance that meant capacity was not available when needed to meet high consumer demand in the extreme cold.

In fact, 22 percent of the generation in PJM was unavailable to serve consumers on coldest day of the year. More than 40,000 megawatts of the 180,000 megawatts in the PJM fleet were not able to deliver power when the region needed it most.

Against the backdrop of extreme weather, industry change and the coal-to-natural gas fuel transition, PJM developed its Capacity Performance plan. It establishes a pay-for-performance standard for power supplies: Generators will be required to deliver energy whenever PJM declares that emergency conditions exist. If they don’t, they’ll be assessed payments that will go to generators which over-perform. PJM filed the plan on Dec. 12, 2014, for approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

This is not the traditional capacity definition, in which resources commit to deliver energy when called on – if they are available.

Capacity Performance is a “no-excuses” approach. It sets a new standard that requires generators to perform when PJM calls on them in system emergencies, in hot or cold weather. It directly links capacity payments and performance. It’s an insurance policy to ensure the reliability of the system that provides essential electricity to 61 million people.

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The Gift of Perfect Dispatch

So far in 2014, PJM has saved its members $144 million in production costs using a process called “Perfect Dispatch.”

Perfect Dispatch measures the ability of PJM’s dispatch operations to minimize system production costs while still meeting reliability needs. The “perfect dispatch” for a given day is the hypothetical commitment of generators and dispatch that would result in the lowest production cost while maintaining reliability, and can only happen if all system conditions (such as the load forecast, generator availability and performance, and transmission outages and constraints) occur exactly as predicted.

While that’s not realistically achievable, it still acts as a great baseline to measure performance.

PJM scores how close to “perfect” its operations are by comparing its actual production costs to the optimal figure, setting goals each year to meet a certain percentage of Perfect Dispatch. Because of PJM’s size, even small improvements in dispatch performance can produce large savings for members. Since it was introduced in 2008, Perfect Dispatch has yielded more than $986 million in savings to PJM members.

Beyond monetary savings, Perfect Dispatch reduces wear, tear and emissions from generation resources because they are used more efficiently. You can learn more about how PJM works to protect reliability fairly and efficiently in the PJM Learning Center.

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Giving Thanks for Those Working Over Thanksgiving

As we look back and celebrate the things we’re thankful for over this Thanksgiving, PJM is especially thankful for our personnel who will be working tirelessly over the holiday to help keep the lights on.

We also want to recognize and thank the medical and emergency services professionals and volunteers as well as men and women in the armed services working selflessly over the holiday to care for and protect us at home and overseas.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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