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Renewable Vibes > News > Renewable Energy > Clean power advocates are cautiously observing the grid operator’s planning reforms.

Clean power advocates are cautiously observing the grid operator’s planning reforms.

PJM, the largest grid operator in the US, is making changes to its transmission upgrade planning process in order to ensure reliable service for the 65 million people within its jurisdiction. The move comes after criticism of the organization’s traditional planning methods, which have been viewed as short-sighted and insufficiently holistic. Clean energy advocates and some state regulators are pushing for a more forward-looking approach that considers alternative options to traditional transmission lines and incorporates the policy goals of PJM states, particularly those with aggressive decarbonization targets.

Anjali Patel, a consultant for Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, stated that previous transmission planning efforts have segregated economic needs, reliability needs, and state interests, and have lacked proactive planning. She believes that PJM is a crucial player in driving the necessary changes.

However, some critics argue that the process to develop the new planning framework has taken a step backwards, potentially jeopardizing states’ goals and wasting valuable time. Tom Rutigliano, a senior advocate for climate and energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, claims that PJM agreed to plan for a fictional future in order to appease fossil fuel states, which has undermined progress.

It should be noted that the proposed changes have not been finalized and could be influenced by a pending rule from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on transmission planning and cost allocation, according to PJM spokesman Jeff Shields.

The importance of effective planning is emphasized in a letter from the Organization of PJM States, a group of utility regulators, which expresses concern about the region’s reactive approach in the face of significant changes in the electric power industry. The group argues that rapid changes in power supply and demand are creating grid reliability issues that require an evolution of PJM’s planning tools.

The case of Maryland serves as an example of how things can go wrong. The state’s Office of People’s Counsel and Public Service Commission filed complaints against PJM for approving urgent transmission projects to address anticipated reliability problems caused by a retiring coal plant. The complainants argue that PJM should have been better prepared for the plant’s retirement, which will result in significant new transmission costs for ratepayers. They suggest that alternative options, such as energy storage, should have been considered.

PJM, however, rejects these arguments, stating that transmission is the only solution to the reliability problems caused by the retiring plant. FERC Commissioner Allison Clements expressed concerns about PJM’s grid planning process, suggesting that earlier planning activities could have identified more efficient and cost-effective solutions.

Advocates are calling for a planning process that allows PJM to work collaboratively with states and utilities to develop solutions that align with state policy goals and consider lower-cost options. They point to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) as a successful example of long-term planning that supports state resource plans and ensures low-cost power and high reliability. However, PJM lacks the authority to develop or impose cost allocation schemes, which can be a major obstacle in transmission planning and construction.

Critics are wary of PJM’s proposed tiered approach, which focuses on different scenarios for transmission planning. Some argue that the approach is too rigid and reactive, limiting the exploration of better options. Others are concerned that state policy goals are being siloed, potentially leading to duplication of transmission infrastructure and punitive cost allocation for clean energy projects.

Despite the challenges, some experts are cautiously optimistic about the progress being made by PJM. They believe that incorporating state policies into planning is essential, as these policies represent the interests of utilities and businesses operating within PJM’s jurisdiction.

In conclusion, PJM’s efforts to change its transmission upgrade planning process reflect a growing demand for a more proactive, holistic, and forward-looking approach. While there are challenges and concerns, there is optimism that these changes can lead to more effective and sustainable grid planning within PJM’s territory.

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