PA Senate Holds Second Hearing On Grid Reliability & Infrastructure Concerns

The Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on held a briefing on May 1, 2023 discuss grid reliability and infrastructure and provide an update on the future outlook of Pennsylvania power production. A recording of the meeting can be found here.

According to Committee Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) “the aftermath of Winter Storm Elliott in December has spurred a welcomed conversation on grid reliability with PJM,” Sen. Yaw said. “Short sighted environmental policies have forced fossil fuel plants into nonexistence, resulting in fewer reliable energy sources to shoulder the burden of increased demand on Pennsylvania’s electrical grid.”

During the briefing, the Committee heard testimony from power generators and industry experts including Glen Thomas, President of PJM Power Providers Group. Thomas discussed current trends in the PJM market and explained that demand is rising faster than historic rates.

“Retirements are happening faster than anticipated,” Thomas said. “PJM projects that 20% of its existing capacity will retire between now and 2030 and replacement capacity is not of the quality and quantity necessary to sustain reliability. As a result, at the current trajectory, PJM is not going to have sufficient power to meet the demands of consumers and prices are likely to increase.”

PJM, a regional transmission organization for 13 states and the District of Columbia, coordinates the flow of electricity from generators to local utilities across a web of high-voltage transmission lines. Local utilities distribute this power directly to consumers.

Also among the testifiers was James Locher, Chief Operating Officer of Keystone-Conemaugh Project Office (“KeyCon”), the manager of two large, essentially identical, coal-fired plants in western PA. Locher touched on capacity market decline and the impact of policies such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RIGGI).

“The capacity market decline is clearly hastening plant closures without regard to the reliability implications,” Locher said. “The incorporation of Pennsylvania into the multistate RGGI will most certainly shift market power to non-RGGI generator states in PJM and make Pennsylvania-based KeyCon plants non-competitive in the marketplace, forcing their immediate closure.”

“The bottom line is that grid stability requires a diversified energy portfolio,” Sen. Yaw said. “Wind and solar are great energy sources, but they are not reliable sources. Renewables are intermittent, limited, and dependent on weather. Baseload generation has to be available at 3 a.m. when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. When renewables come online in states with clean energy goals, they are relying on Pennsylvania to make up that difference.”

Note: Content from this story was shared from the press release issued by Senator Yaw’s office on May 1, 2023. Click here to read the press release.

The PPA previously reported on the on initial Senate Hearing that took place on February 27, 2023. Click here to read that story.

Earlier this year, PJM published a report called Energy Transition in PJM: Resource Retirements, Replacements & Risks which studies the potential impacts of an energy transition. A link to review the report can be found here.