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PJM Releases New Analysis of Energy Transition Scenarios

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Julian Jackson's picture
Staff Writer, Energy Central BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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  • Dec 17, 2021

PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization (RTO) that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states, serving over 65 million people. In a new report, Energy Transition in PJM: Frameworks for Analysis, it looks at three future scenarios for a reliable transition to renewables on the grid.

The report is a multiphase, multiyear effort to study the potential impacts of an evolving resource mix, including the accelerating integration of renewable resources. PJM’s five-year strategy is built on three pillars – enabling state and federal decarbonization policies, planning for the grid of the future, and fostering innovation. This ongoing project will help PJM identify gaps and opportunities in the current market construct and provide insights into the future of market design, transmission planning and reliable system operations.

In the study, PJM synthesized the diverse set of state policies within its footprint into three scenarios in which an increasing amount of energy is served by renewable generation on an annual basis (10%, 22% and 50%), and up to 70% carbon-free generation when combined with nuclear generation. Currently, renewables represent approximately 6% of the annual energy, a total of over 40% carbon-free when combined with nuclear power's contribution to the energy mix in 2020.

The study’s initial findings suggest five key focus areas for PJM’s stakeholder community and show the way forward for subsequent phases of the study:

• Correctly calculating the capacity contribution of generators is essential: A system with increased variable resources will require new approaches to adequately assess the reliability value of each resource and the system overall.

• Flexibility becomes increasingly important with growing uncertainty: The study reaffirmed the need for operational flexibility to address the uncertainty of variable resources. Findings include 50% steeper netload ramping periods, frequent dispatch of generators to their economic minimum, and lower capacity factors for thermal resources.

• Thermal generators provide essential reliability services today and an adequate supply will be needed until a substitute is deployed at scale: PJM and stakeholders must ensure that the market structure provides the right incentives to maintain these reliability services.

• Regional markets facilitate a reliable and cost-effective energy transition: The economies of scale, geographical diversity and robust transmission system of PJM Interconnection can serve to facilitate the reliable and cost-effective integration of renewable resources. Expected increases in congestion, renewable curtailments and interchange with other regions suggest opportunities for strategic regional transmission expansion as well as storage and grid-enhancing technologies.

• Reliability standards must evolve: As the penetration of distributed energy resources (DER) increases on the grid, further blurring the conventional boundaries between transmission and distribution systems, it will be critical to establish appropriate standards for performance, cybersecurity and reliability for DER. As PJM’s markets, operations and transmission planning functions evolve to facilitate renewable resource integration, so should reliability standards across interdependent infrastructure such as gas, water and telecommunications.


This exploration of renewable integration is one of multiple, concurrent initiatives in which PJM is serving as an independent authority for data and analysis to help facilitate decarbonization and build the grid of the future. The full study is available here.

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Dec 17, 2021

Very disappointing that PJM makes no serious attempt to address green buyer needs and decarbonization goals in the latest framework. Even Brattle Group, the Authors of the FCEM market design, have conceded the the most efficient pathway forward for decarbonization and reliability engages the consumer side, especially larger Green Buyers, such as CEBA. The accommodation of State Energy Goals, Green Buyer decarbonization goals and resource adequacy are achievable in a single solution:  which was first introduced here on Energy Central.

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