PJM Interconnection releases third phase of energy transition study

Published on February 28, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

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PJM Interconnection released a study this week on the impacts of the energy transition that the country will go through in the coming years.

Energy Transition in PJM: Resource Retirements, Replacements and Risks is the third in a series of reports that PJM has put out on this topic. It explores the pace of resource retirements and replacements through 2030 and examines the potential reliability risks to meeting growing electricity demand.

The study features four key findings:

• The growth rate of electricity demand is likely to continue to increase from electrification coupled with the proliferation of high-demand data centers in the region;

• Thermal generators are retiring at a rapid pace due to government and private sector policies as well as economics;

• Retirements are at risk of outpacing the construction of new resources due to a combination of industry forces, including siting and supply chain, whose long-term impacts are not fully known; and

• PJM’s interconnection queue is composed primarily of intermittent and limited-duration resources. Given the operating characteristics of these resources, we need multiple megawatts of these resources to replace 1 MW of thermal generation.

It points to a potential timing mismatch between resource retirements, load growth, and the pace of new generation entry in what they call a “low new entry” scenario.

The current pace of new entry would be insufficient to keep up with expected retirements and demand growth by 2030. However, this could be avoided in a “high new entry” scenario.

“While this is certainly a potential outcome, given the significant policy support for new renewable resources, our analysis of these long-term trends reinforces the importance of PJM’s ongoing stakeholder initiatives, including capacity market modifications, interconnection process reform and clean capacity procurement, and the urgency for continued, combined actions to de-risk the future of resource adequacy while striving to facilitate the energy policies in the PJM footprint,” PJM official stated.

At this point, however, the amount of generation retirements appears to be more certain than the timely arrival of replacement generation resources, considering the uncertainty with the pace of new entry of the Inflation Reduction Act and post-pandemic supply chain issues, among other issues.

Specifically, the analysis shows that 40 GW of existing generation is at risk of retirement by 2030, including 6 GW of 2022 deactivations, 6 GW of announced retirements, 25 GW of potential policy-driven retirements, and 3 GW of potential economic retirements. This represents about 21 percent of PJM’s current installed capacity.

In addition, PJM is forecasting demand growth of 1.4 percent per year for the PJM footprint over the next 10 years, with certain areas potentially seeing 7 percent demand growth annually.

“The findings of this study highlight the importance of PJM’s ongoing stakeholder initiatives (Resource Adequacy Senior Task Force, Clean Attribute Procurement Senior Task Force, Interconnection Process Subcommittee), continued efforts between PJM and state and federal agencies to manage reliability impacts of policies and regulations, and the urgency for coordinated actions to shape the future of resource adequacy,” PJM officials said.

The first two phases of the study — Frameworks for Analysis (PDF) and Emerging Characteristics of a Decarbonizing Grid — focused on resource adequacy in 2035 and beyond.