New report calls for expanding electricity grid to meet future demand | News, sports, jobs

Power lines run from American Electric Power Co.’s John Amos plant. near Winfield, W.Va., Friday, Feb. 3, 2006. To provide cheaper electricity to the East Coast, American Electric Power Co. proposed a 500-mile power line with massive transmission towers that would cut through West Virginia’s scenic mountain recreation areas, bisect Maryland and run through Pennsylvania’s Amish country on its way to New Jersey. (AP Photo/Bob Bird)

CHARLESTON – As the number of electric vehicles on America’s highways continues to grow and climate change puts more strain on the existing electric grid, a new report calls for proactive transmission planning for the regional grid serving West Virginia.

Americans for a Clean Energy Grid – a nonprofit organization made up of more than 40 environmental, conservation and renewable energy organizations and companies – released a report Tuesday morning titled “Transmission Planning for PJM’s Future Load and Generation.”

The report focuses specifically on PJM Interconnection, a wholesale energy transmission company – also called a regional transmission organization – that serves West Virginia, twelve other states and Washington, DC.

PJM serves all contiguous states and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Delaware, New Jersey and North Carolina. PJM includes 400 member utilities and independent energy producers. Founded in 1927, PJM and other regional transmission organizations allow electricity producers and users to buy and sell power throughout the organization’s territory. The current PJM market emerged in 1999.

The report was produced for Americans for a Clean Energy Grid by GridStrategies and David Gardiner and Associates. According to the report, PJM’s energy demand in 2040 will exceed PJM’s forecast 2024 load by 8% for the projected scenario and by 18% for the worst-case demand scenario.

However, the report states that with the expected retirement of coal-fired power plants, newly proposed rules by the Environmental Protection Agency that could freeze new construction of natural gas power plants, and major manufacturing projects and data center construction, demand on the grid is increasing, the report’s authors believe that these estimates are low.

“The forecast of the expected scenario may still be conservative given the continued announcements of new manufacturing facilities and data centers,” the report said. “In addition to load growth, PJM has an aging thermal generation fleet that we expect will result in the retirement of generators worth approximately 25% of PJM’s load in 2023. The combination of load growth and retirement requires that PJM is planning and building new lines to meet this expected resource shortage.”

According to the report, PJM will need to add another 623 terawatt hours of energy generation annually to meet expected demand by 2040. The report calls on PJM to engage in proactive transmission planning as required by the Federal Energy Regulatory. Commission Decision No. 1920.

“Opponents and skeptics of proactive planning often raise the specter of uncertainty and speculation as a roadblock to achieving robust and reliable results,” the report authors said. “But these concerns will not be resolved by ignoring the enormous changes impacting the energy industry and continuing to plan reactively. Instead, uncertainty is best addressed by incorporating the best available data on the future commodity mix to conduct scenario analyzes testing different futures to determine the optimal set of transmission solutions…”

West Virginia’s major energy producers all have goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Both Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power have a goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2030 and net zero by 2045. Mon Power and Potomac Edison have a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Combined with the goals of energy companies in other states served by PJM, the demand for clean energy to replace fossil fuels would be 657 terawatt hours.

“Even if 100% of utility targets are not met, these commitments should still be viewed as an indication that utilities and shareholders agree on the goal of adding additional clean energy to the grid,” the report said.

Americans for a Clean Energy Grid has a list of best practices for transmission planning and development, including using proactive planning for future electricity generation loads, using multi-value planning to assess current transmission projects, and using scenario-based planning to look at worst-case scenarios for tensions on the PJM grid.

“Without proactive planning for all known needs, numerous incremental transmission upgrades can be built to compensate,” the report said. “Incremental upgrades often ignore the most cost-effective, long-term solutions from a system-wide perspective. Proactive planning also helps guide the market towards the optimal mix of generation and transmission and can identify needs where an integrated grid solution is most efficient.”

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