Lessons learned from the winter’s cold weather impact on the grid

For most of us who endured this winter’s harsh weather, May’s mildness has mellowed our angst and thawed our chill. Yet, as guardians of the grid’s reliability, PJM isn’t forgetting. We have been studying the lessons learned through that experience to see how we can apply them to future operations.

This winter was marked by record-setting milestones and unprecedented challenges for the grid. Eight of the 10 highest winter records for demand were set in January, normally ample operational reserves were pinched by above-average generation outages, and natural gas supply issues boosted up prices.

Still, despite it all, the PJM and its members withstood the pressure and reliably met demand. PJM and its members did this through a number of pre-defined steps, including calling on all available resources, issuing public appeals for conservation and calling on load management resources, which responded voluntarily. (January was not yet part of the period when load management capacity resources were required to respond.) In spite of published reports to the contrary, even on the day with the tightest power supplies – January 7 – several steps remained before electricity interruptions might have been necessary.

PJM has published an “Analysis of Operational Events and Market Impacts During the January 2014 Cold Weather Events (PDF),” otherwise known as the Cold Weather Report. It is the culmination of information-gathering and reports we’ve used to testify to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Senate, state legislative bodies and others. Our intention is to begin an open dialogue with stakeholders about the 14 recommendations.

Some recommendations from the report include:

  • To improve generator availability and performance during peak electricity use days,
  • To improve available information about the status of generating units, such as fuel and emission limits,
  • To develop recommendations to improve natural gas and electricity systems coordination, and
  • To review the cost allocation process for out-of-market payments to maintain reliability.

Although we are expecting a very hot summer and will likely not see the same issues we saw this winter, we are working to be prepared. (Watch for an upcoming article on summer expectations.)



January 07, 2014 Load Curve

January 07, 2014 Load Curve

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