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PJM lays out resilience road map, next steps for fuel diversity study

Grid operator PJM Interconnection laid out a road map of what actions it may take through 2018 and beyond on resilience, which examines the grid's ability to withstand shocks to its system.

The road map is the first major step since PJM conducted a fuel diversity study, released in late March, and heard stakeholder feedback during its Grid 20/20 symposium in April on the topic of resilience. PJM coordinates power delivery across 13 states and the District of Columbia, and the fuel study found risks to resilience from a changing fuel mix that is growing more reliant on natural gas. The study asked members whether resilience should be part of PJM's business practice, similar to reliability.

Resilience pertains to the grid's ability to bounce back after disturbances such as cybersecurity attacks, natural gas pipeline disruptions, or severe weather. The road map lays out a draft timeline with three tracks. Track 1 and 2 set goals for the 2017-2018 period, while the third track looks beyond 2018. According to a PJM blog post on June 7, PJM Vice President of Operations Mike Bryson said during a June 6 Operating Committee meeting the roadmap is a "living" document that could change after stakeholder feedback.

Under Track 1, PJM intends to develop draft metrics to measure resilience for generation and transmission assets and work with members to assess threats to resilience. PJM also plans to strengthen the grid's network design and expand partnerships with the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies to assess risks to cyber and physical security. The second track will look at a number of topics including changes to its energy or ancillary services market to support operations or resilience changes, a PJM spokesperson clarified by email.

Within Track 3, which looks beyond 2018, PJM plans to collaborate with transmission owners on standards for addressing electromagnetic pulses, or EMPs, which include bursts of energy that can damage electrical equipment and cause widespread blackouts, and geomagnetic disturbances, or GMDs, events which include solar flares. EMP and GMD events have a low probability of occurring but can have large impacts on the bulk power system. The subject has gotten regional and national attention with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur raising the topic of EMPs in testimony before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month.

Fuel diversity study

Part of Track 2 will consider an expanded fuel diversity study from the version released in March to consider additional sensitivities for natural gas. One sensitivity might look at separating combined-cycle from gas steam units, which include coal plants converted to burn natural gas. The March study had lumped them together, Bryson said in a May 24 interview in Washington, D.C. Another sensitivity would look at how to define firm natural gas supply. The March study assumed that firm natural gas supply is those facilities with gas transportation contracts in place. But according to member statements during the last Grid 20/20 symposium there are differences between gas units with firm delivery contracts and units with back-up diesel fuel on site. "People have different kinds of contracts" as to what forms firm fuel, Bryson added.

Future iterations might also expand the fuel types analyzed in the study, Bryson said. The initial study only considered six primary fuel types — coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas, solar and wind — and did not consider fuel types such as energy storage.

System planning and resilience

PJM's Planning Committee has also begun talks about how to incorporate resilience into the grid operator's planning processes. "We did need to think about what are the plausible events that can happen on the system," Mark Sims, PJM's manager of transmission planning, said during a June 8 meeting. The committee plans to run simulations to model impacts to the grid from possible events like a gas shortage or earthquake.

"I think where we are headed is to first simulate and then develop metrics and measurements for the value of resilience," Sims said.