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PJM sequesters control room operators in response to pandemic


Weekday peak loads fall 8% to 10%

Develops plan for Market Operation Centers to work remotely

  • Author
  • Jared Anderson
  • Editor
  • Keiron Greenhalgh
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power
  • Topic
  • Coronavirus and Commodities

PJM Interconnection began sequestering control room operators for 21 days starting last weekend to prevent them from being infected with the novel coronavirus, staff said Friday.

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The grid operator is seeing weekday peakload declines of 8% to 10% and is enacting temporary measures so market operators can work remotely if needed.

"On [April 11], we began sequestering a team of operators and the plan is to sequester them for a minimum of 21 days at this point, and we are continuing to operate out of all three of our control rooms," Scott Heffentrager, PJM's senior director of physical security & facilities, said during a weekly pandemic update conference call.

PJM has also retained an epidemiologist to assist with its pandemic measures and operator sequestration efforts, Heffentrager said.

In response to a stakeholder question about PJM's coronavirus testing regime for control room operators, senior vice president of operations, Mike Bryson, said PJM has been tackling this at the national level and through the pursuit of local testing.

"We have heard in different areas of the country that there has been more success at a local level, so township, county, sometimes state level and local healthcare providers or your corporate healthcare provider," Bryson said.

In PJM's case, it received help from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, authorities and a local healthcare provider to obtain the limited number of tests needed, he said.

PJM has heard feedback from some of the states across its footprint that sequestration should really involve two tests, one to get into sequestration and another shortly after.

"While I don't disagree with that, we haven't seen that availability of testing yet," Bryson said.

Elizabeth Anastasio, senior meteorologist for power generation updated stakeholders on PJM's evolving load forecast methodology, explaining short-term operations staff have been focused on hourly load impacts of the pandemic using simple linear models based on historic load and temperature data excluding 2020 to isolate the coronavirus impacts.

Then the PJM staff use actual 2020 temperatures, which she said provides a better estimate of how stay-at-home orders are impacting load rather than earlier methodology that did not account for weather conditions.

PJM estimates weekday load has been impacted at peak by declines of 8% to 10% and daily energy demand has declined by 7%. Weekends have been impacted less than weekdays with loads down by 2% to 4%, Anastasio said.

Power prices are also down at select hubs by over 35% year on year, from about $30/MWh to around $20/MWh or less.

Chris Moran, senior lead analyst for reliability compliance, said a few Market Operations Centers have reached out to PJM regarding the feasibility of moving to remote operations if it appeared there was an imminent threat of infection.

As a result, PJM is drafting a temporary manual intended to provide additional guidelines should the MOCs not be able to comply with the normal PJM control center requirements, Moran said.

This would avoid the MOCs having to file a waiver should they not be able to meet the requirements, he said. It is being fast-tracked outside the stakeholder process and PJM is looking to make it available April 24.


PJM has also been monitoring power generator outage preparation for maintenance season. It has been "keeping a close eye" on generator outage tickets that have been canceled or rescheduled, David Schweizer, manager of power system coordination, said.

About 20% of those planned outage tickets have been rescheduled already and it is about a 70% to 30% split between rescheduling them for later in the spring, or in the fall or even into 2021, Schweizer said.

PJM is also trying to get a handle on whether the rescheduling is predominantly related to the impact of the pandemic or if it is related to typical rescheduling seen during the spring maintenance period, he said.

Schweizer said PJM is continuing with its natural gas pipeline coordination efforts and it is not seeing any major changes with respect to pipeline maintenance plans. PJM is not seeing any issue with pipeline maintenance impacting power generators, he added.