A report from PJM shows the region’s electric grid capable of withstanding all but the most extreme events.
The report was commissioned after the Trump Administration and the coal industry warned about an electric crisis as coal and nuclear-fired power plants are shut down. A plan to keep power plants open under emergency powers from Trump was at least temporarily shelved this fall.
Within PJM’s service area, a shutdown is planned for the Three Mile Island power plant. Coal-fired power plants have also been shut down or are slated for retirement.
“The study results showed that the grid is reliable now and into the future. It also identified some extreme but plausible future scenarios which could impact the system,” a release stated.
The release announced that “PJM has initiated a process with its stakeholders to further study the issue throughout 2019 and to propose market rule changes, if necessary. PJM will also continue to work with federal agencies to define and analyze additional scenarios.”
The extreme conditions that could trigger problems would include cold weather coupled with a disruption to natural gas pipelines that now are used in powering a growing number of power plants.
The PJM reports recommends a market-based approach to fuel security, rather than government intervention.
PJM, based in suburban Philadelphia, manages the grid in a large area of the Mid-Atlantic, including Delaware. The grid extends as far west as Chicago.
Nuclear power plants present a challenge for PJM and states as sites age and costs rise beyond the price of natural gas-fired generation.
Nuclear plant operators have been seeking assistance from state regulators in gaining subsidies, arguing that the plants are essential to the stability of the grid and a needed transition in the move toward renewable sources.
Another issue, not mentioned in the PJM report, is jobs. Both coal and nuclear powered plants have large workforces when compared to natural gas plants that can operate with a few dozen people. The job numbers have bolstered sentiments to keep those plants open.
The PJM area also includes West Virginia, which has seen a steady decline in coal production and has been encouraged by the Trump administration’s efforts to promote “clean coal” and keep power plants with fewer emissions controls open.
Delaware has one coal-fired unit that has scrubbing equipment that lowers emissions.
Delaware is surrounded by nuclear power plants that include the massive Salem complex in New Jersey
The state is currently fighting a plan to relieve stress on the grid from the power plant through a powerline into Delaware. The power line would provide minimal benefits, with the costs borne by First State and Maryland ratepayers.