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PJM’s NatGas-Electric Coordination Promises Reliability This Winter

Efforts to coordinate its natural gas and electricity efforts continue at PJM and will have positive impacts this winter and beyond, according to David Souder, director of operations planning for the grid operator.

PJM is expecting a warmer-than-normal winter, though cooler than the last two winters, Souder said during a panel discussion at FERC’s regular open meeting Thursday. A recent peak load analysis identified no reliability issues, and results from sensitivity studies are being analyzed now, he said.

PJM's record winter peak was 143,295 MW in February 2015; the current load forecast is 135,526 MW.

"We do a lot of coordination and preparation for the winter," Souder told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Included are resource testing exercises in which units are brought up on their alternate fuels to be sure they will be able to start if needed during winter months. A cyber drill focused on two gas pipeline systems in the PJM service territory is planned for 1Q2018.

"We have a gas/electric coordination team that focuses on daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal communications, and we have that team focused on operations,” he said. “The key with the gas/electric team is to provide transparency down to our dispatch and reliability engineers so that we're prepared and work closely with the gas-electric system.

"The team analyzes data related to gas/electric delivery, taking a look at generation that is scheduled on our system and any kind of issues that may be on the gas system so that we can highlight any generators that may be at risk and communicating that to our dispatch-reliability engineers so we're prepared to operate through that in real time,” Souder said.

"In addition, we do a lot of coordination with the gas pipelines. We have communication agreements with the gas pipelines and the LDCs [local distribution companies], and we work closely with the dispatch to make sure that our tools are available and ready for real-time operations."

PJM's analysis of its gas-electric system, Souder said, is focused on the redundancy of the gas pipeline system and how a failure of normal operations, or a physical or cyber attack, would affect the electric system. PJM coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

"What we do is we evaluate the flexibility of the gas generation on the PJM system, the ability of those generators to swap to a dual fuel, and/or to be served by an alternate gas pipeline,” he told the Commission. “We're actually working to model one of the gas pipelines to the PJM system from a hydraulic perspective so we can perform our own type of contingency analysis.

"We just want to make sure that we're prepared, we understand when we have a contingency in the gas pipeline system, what does that mean, how much time do we have to react, and then what kind of procedures we have to put in place.”

PJM expects to complete a gas pipeline system model by the end of this year. “Based on the effectiveness of that pilot we'll then expand it to other gas pipeline systems and ultimately move into some kind of contingency analysis near real time."

Last week FERC said a combination of increased production, robust storage numbers, higher prices and relatively warm weather this winter are expected to return natural gas markets to "more moderate conditions."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said it expects warmer-than-normal conditions along the southern two-thirds of the United States, the East Coast, Hawaii and much of Alaska in the coming months.

The Northern Tier from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest can expect below-average temperatures, and a there is a 55-65% chance that a La Nina event will emerge. While the La Nina would probably be weak and short-lived, it could still bring colder-than-average temperatures to the Northern Tier, NOAA said.

In addition to PJM, members of the panel represented the California Independent System Operator, Southwest Power Pool, Midcontinent Independent System Operator, New York Independent System Operator and ISO-New England.

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