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PJM: Electric System Fared Well During Recent Cold Snap

The mid-Atlantic region’s electric grid held up much better during the stretch of extremely cold weather Jan. 13 through 22, dubbed Winter Storm Gerri, than it did during 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott.

A recent report from PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the electricity market for 13 states, including Pennsylvania, found that electric generation was strong during the recent cold weather and that gas production, transmission, and generation were much better than during Elliott when some 23% of its generation capacity was off-line, the majority of that from generation at natural-gas-fired power plants. Natural gas is the most commonly used fuel among PJM power generators, making up just under half of the fuel mix.

During Gerri, PJM reached a peak load of 134.7 MW of electricity on Jan. 17. At its peak, 16,119 MW of power was offline, compared to 46,000 MW during Elliott. The U.S. Energy Information Administration also reported that the nation’s gas consumption reached a new daily record of 141.5 billion cubic feet on Jan. 16, exceeding the previous record from Elliott.

PJM officials attributed the improvement to several factors. The extreme temperatures did not affect the entire PJM footprint, allowing natural gas production and transmission in Pennsylvania to perform better. During Elliott, natural gas production in Pennsylvania dropped by 20% due to mechanical issues with transmission and generation equipment caused by the cold. During Gerri, gas production declined by about 4% across the northeast.

The lessons learned from Elliott were put into use during Gerri, including better forecasts of anticipated demand, better cold-weather preparation by generation companies, and PJM’s decisions to put more generating units into use earlier.

PJM also was able to export nearly 10% of its power needs to neighboring regional operators covering areas that were hit harder by outages due to the frigid temperatures, highlighting the importance of an interconnected grid system.

It appears that the cold weather reliability and communication improvements outlined in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report on the “unprecedented outages” of Elliott helped to mitigate the effects of Gerri on the electric grid system as operators were better able to anticipate and address potential issues.

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