Is PJM Electric Grid at Risk by Using More NatGas? Study Says No

The nation’s electric grid is a complex system. You don’t ever think twice about–you flip a switch and the electricity flows, powering lights, appliances, etc. But ensuring the power is always there, always on when you need it, keeps a lot of people awake at night. The U.S. “grid” is actually a bunch of smaller grids. In the northeast there are several such organizations. One of them is called the PJM, a regional transmission organization (RTO) coordinating the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia (including PA, OH and WV). PJM, like other RTOs, faces challenges with ensuring there will always be enough electricity produced to meet demand. Over the past several years coal-fired electric generating plants have been closing. Natural gas, and in a much smaller sense renewables (wind and solar) have taken up the slack. Wind and solar are notoriously unreliable. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Natural gas needs pipelines to get where it’s going. There has been a concern that with coal disappearing from the generation mix, that an “over-reliance” on natgas and renewables will make electricity supplies problematic and unreliable. In an effort to address questions of reliability, PJM just completed and published a 44-page study titled, “PJM’s Evolving Resource Mix and System Reliability” (full copy below). What does the study find? Even with fewer coal plants producing electricity, PJM’s electric supplies, using more and more natgas and renewables, will be just fine…

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