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Data centers, fracking expected to pump electricity demand in portions of PJM

Average annual load growth in the PJM Interconnection region by 2028 is projected to be slightly higher than predicted a year ago in an annual load forecast report.

A preliminary load forecast report, released Dec. 19, looks at projected changes in electricity demand over the next 10 years in each of PJM's zones and in the region as a whole. A final version of the report is due to be released by the end of December.

After accounting offsets to peak demand from rooftop and other distributed solar, overall peak demand is expect to grow 0.4% through 2028, though the preliminary 2018 forecast shows a lower summer peak demand forecast through 2023 when compared to the 2017 forecast and the winter peak demand forecast lower than the previous year's forecast to 2020 through 2021.

Growth rates vary across PJM's internal zones, with the highest peak load growth rates through 2028 in the Dominion Energy Inc. zone covering eastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, at 0.8% due to increasing demand from data centers, and in the Allegheny Power Systems zone, at 0.7%, which includes several FirstEnergy Corp. utility service territories and is bolstered by fracking activity, according to a presentation made during a PJM Planning Committee meeting Dec. 14.

The preliminary report predicts less solar adoption over the next 10 years than 2017's forecast in part because of the Trump administration's repeal of the Clean Power Plan, a rule set by the Obama administration to reduce U.S. power-sector carbon emissions. Had the rule gone into effect, it was expected to boost use of renewable energy and energy efficiency for states to meet interim carbon dioxide emissions reduction standards between 2022 and 2029 and final standards by 2030.

To serve summer peak demand, PJM staff predict the region will have about 1,218 MW of distributed solar, which refers to small solar projects. That amount grows to 2,900 MW in 2028 and 3,303 MW by 2033.