Grid operator says it’s ready for electricity demands this summer

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An executive with regional electric grid operator PJM Interconnection says the region is poised to handle what is expected to be a hot summer without electric blackouts or brownouts.

“Overall, we’re in good shape for this summer,” Paul McGlynn, PJM executive director of systems operations said recently.

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In other regions, power executives aren’t so sure. There has been talk of a drought paired with high temperatures forcing blackouts in the West. And a recent report from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) warned that some Midwestern states, including Indiana, could see a risk of “energy emergencies during peak summer conditions.”

“We’ve been doing this for close to 30 years. This is probably one of the grimmest pictures we’ve painted in a while,” John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment and performance analysis, told CBS News recently, referring to expected conditions out west.

That’s evidently not the case with Ohio, which is part of PJM’s nearly 370,000-square-mile service area.

“We’re not predicting any of that with PJM,” McGlynn said.

McGlynn said PJM is aware of the situation facing the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which is responsible for operating the power grid across 15 states, including Indiana. PJM is ready to help that area if necessary, he said.

The NERC report states that PJM expects no resource problems over the summer because “installed capacity is over two times the reserve requirement.”

PJM has about 185,000 megawatts of generation resources, according to McGlynn. The grid operator is looking at an expected peak load this summer of around 149,000 megawatts, he said.

For perspective, PJM says its all-time one-day highest power use was recorded in the summer of 2006 at 165,563 megawatts.

One megawatt can power about 800 homes.

“We have more than enough generation to serve the load that we expect to have for this summer,” McGlynn said.

PJM is a regional transmission organization that coordinates wholesale electricity in all or parts of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Indiana, Delaware and several other states. In all, PJM serves 65 million customers across nearly 370,000 square miles.

Mary Ann Kabel, a spokeswoman for AES Ohio, said in a written statement Monday that her company has been working with PJM.

“AES Ohio monitors generation and electric load 24/7 and proactively reviews emergency action plans during extreme conditions,” Kabel said.

Utility bills fluctuate based on consumption, she noted. The main drivers of electricity demand during the summer are temperature and humidity levels.

“Nearly 90% of U.S. households use some kind of air conditioning,” Kabel said. “We typically see energy use spike in the summer since air conditioning is one of the biggest energy users in your home. High temperatures can lead to higher energy usage and bills as people try to stay cool.”

Asked why PJM is in a strong position while grid operators elsewhere are eyeing the possibility of blackouts, McGlynn cited a number of factors. PJM plans all year long to meet peak demand times, he said. The region has a strong transmission grid. And it has a reliable mix of generation today, including coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewable sources.

“Reliability always comes first for us,” he said.

Last year’s peak demand was about 149,000 megawatts, PJM said. Forecasts call for a slightly warmer summer this year.

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