Grid operator PJM expects to meet regional electricity demand but warns of tighter reserves


PJM Interconnection expects to meet summer electricity demand in 2024, though continuing generator shutdowns and increasing demand continue to reduce reserves.

According to the suburban Philadelphia-based organization, tighter supplies could result in the use of demand response or additional emergency procedures if a combination of high heat and generation failures occurs.

“We plan throughout the year to make sure we have enough resources to serve load at the hottest time of the year,” said PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana. “But we are concerned that new generation is not coming online fast enough to replace retiring resources, and that subsequent years may be more challenging.”

Demand for electricity has increased after energy conservation efforts and shutdowns of mills and manufacturing plants in the region held down demand.

The loss of generation resources is outpacing the addition of replacement resources amid accelerating growth in consumers’ demand for electricity. This issue confronts grid operators throughout North America, PJM noted.


Another factor comes from the energy demands from data centers, many in the Washington, DC, area.

PJM’s supply worries are leading to higher utility bills. In Delaware, NRG, the operator of Sussex County’s coal-fired Indian River power plant agreed to keep the site running for a few more years, despite costs that are now higher than those for natural gas generation. Ratepayers are subsidizing those costs. Two plants near Baltimore are also staying in operation for the same reason.

The Sierra Club, which pushed for the closing of the Maryland power plants, suggested that solar coupled with battery back-up power could fill the gap. PJM disagreed.

PJM has fewer generation resources to draw on this summer compared with 2023 – approximately 182,500 megawatts of installed generating capacity is available in 2024 to meet customer needs, compared with approximately 186,500 megawatts of installed capacity last summer.

PJM projects a higher peak demand for electricity this summer at approximately 151,000 MW compared with the 2023 summer peak load of 147,000 megawatts. PJM’s all-time, one-day highest power use was recorded in the summer of 2006 at 165,563 megawatts. One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

Although PJM has performed reliability studies at loads exceeding 164,000 megawatts, the increased peak load forecast combined with reduced generating capacity reduces reserve margins for extreme weather scenarios. Scenarios that include this higher level of demand, combined with low solar and wind output and/or high generator outages, would further reduce reserve margins. In these unlikely but possible set of circumstances, PJM might have to implement additional procedures to manage emergencies, including demand response, calls for conservation, limits on electricity exports, or even temporary service interruptions, according to a release.

“With increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, we need to also prepare for more extreme weather conditions,” said Aftab Khan, executive vice president of Operations, Planning, and Security. “We will continue to work with our utility partners and stakeholders to refine our planning, analysis and communications of the risks presented by any challenging weather patterns this summer.”

PJM has been criticized for having a backlog of proposed solar and wind projects that need an OK to receive a connection to the grid. The grid manager has put a priority on consideration of fast-track projects with financing.

Other critics claim Biden Administration policies led to the current situation, although coal-fired power plant retirements continued during the Trump Administration, despite his support for the industry.