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Increased Electricity-Natural Gas Cooperation Has PJM Confident About Winter

Thanks to increased coordination with natural gas pipelines in the region and individual electricity generator preparedness, PJM Interconnection has sufficient resources to meet expected demand this winter, it said.

This winter is expected to be milder than 2014-2015 and much less harsh than the record-setting polar plunge that marred the 2013-2014 winter.

PJM, which manages the high voltage power grid for 13 eastern states and Washington, DC, said it continues to work with its members to test equipment and procedures, ensure adequate fuel supplies and coordinate with the natural gas industry to better align electric and gas operations for winter.

The power coordinator said it expects to have 177,628 MW of electric capacity resources available to meet the forecasted demand of 131,720 MW, which does not include the expected reduction from demand response. While the 2014-2015 winter peak use of electricity was 143,295 MW, and 2015-2016 winter temperatures are forecast to be milder, PJM acknowledged that it must be prepared for any periods of extreme cold that may occur.

"PJM has taken many steps to reinforce generator readiness and to continue to improve coordination with natural gas pipelines, a key source for a large portion of the generation fleet," said Michael Kormos, PJM chief operations officer.

While the 2014-2015 winter was manageable, the multiple polar vortices linked with the 2013-2014 winter remain fresh in the minds of much of the country. In the Northeast, the cold bursts drove record natural gas demand and prices, prompted constraints on pipelines into New England and hampered delivery of other fuels. While PJM did not experience any power outages, supplies were very tight during the polar vortices and that provided what a PJM spokesperson called at the time "a siren call" to the fact that "there has been a major shift in fuel usage from coal to natural gas -- not just in terms of energy produced, but in terms of capacity. As of June, there is now more gas-fired capacity than there is coal-fired."

This summer, PJM won Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval for a program to boost reliability in terms of weather-related emergencies and peak loads (see Daily GPIJune 11, 2015March 26, 2014Jan. 16, 2014). During January 2014, PJM experienced eight of the 10 highest winter demand days for electricity in its nearly 87-year history.

To prepare for winter 2015-2016, PJM studied the impact of higher load levels, higher generator outage rates, as well as a combination of these scenarios and their impacts on the power system. The organization also looked into the impact on the transmission system of severe gas availability issues that can affect generator availability.

PJM makes winter generation testing available to generating units that have not run in the eight weeks prior to Nov. 1, on either primary or alternate fuel. Generators have also completed a fuel inventory survey to assess their fuel supply status.

Communication and coordination between the natural gas and electric industries continues throughout the year and more frequently through the winter season. PJM and the pipelines begin the season with monthly calls to discuss generation and transmission outages. Starting Nov. 1 through March, the calls are daily to discuss gas and electric grid system status, PJM said.

The organization is tasked with ensuring the reliability of the high-voltage electric power system serving 61 million people in all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. PJM coordinates and directs the operation of the region's transmission grid, which includes 62,556 miles of transmission lines; administers a competitive wholesale electricity market; and plans regional transmission expansion improvements to maintain grid reliability and relieve congestion.

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