Severe weather exposed ‘risks’ in electric grid

Severe weather in September and January revealed some vulnerabilities in electric grid operations for Ohio and other states, but PJM Interconnection and its transmission-owning members successfully met those extreme temperature challenges, the company’s president said.

PJM, the electric grid operator for more than 61 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia, including southwest Ohio, experienced eight record-setting peak demand days in January.

Terry Boston, the Pennsylvania-based company’s president and chief executive, said the single most serious problem was the 22 percent forced outage rate on the coldest date, Jan. 7.

“By this December we need to have better provisions for ensuring that generators have been tested and are winterized,” Boston said Thursday at PJM’s annual meeting, according to documents obtained by this newspaper.

An unseasonal September heat wave hit the PJM region when fall generation and transmission maintenance already was under way. Boston said that episode confirmed that demand response is most useful when resources are flexible with year-round availability and shorter lead times.

January found the region in the grip of the worst cold spell in two decades. During the first cold wave, imports the company had been counting on were cut by third parties to preserve reliability on their own systems.

“January taught us that over-relying on capacity from distant systems carries a lot of risk,” Boston said.

Also on Thursday, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio filed comments and recommendations with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to address the impacts of the recent winter weather events on grid reliability and electricity market prices.

PUCO urged the commission to evaluate forced outages, fuel resource adequacy and the market impacts that resulted from cold winter weather and high natural gas prices.

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