U.S. Utility Can Shutter 4 GW of Coal Plants Without Compromising Grid Reliability
U.S. power utility FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) can safely shut down four gigawatts of coal and diesel generating capacity in Ohio and Pennsylvania in June 2021 and 2022 without compromising the resilience of the electricity supply, according to a 30-day reliability study recently completed by PJM Interconnection, one of the continent’s biggest regional grid operators.
“While the loss of 4 GW is significant, PJM’s grid serves 65 million customers across more than a dozen states, and the long lead time of the shutdowns means plenty of opportunities to address discrete issues,” Utility Dive reports.
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“The planned deactivations can proceed as scheduled without compromising reliability in the PJM transmission grid,” PJM said in a statement. “Any potential reliability impacts will be addressed by a combination of already planned baseline transmission upgrades and the completion of new baseline upgrades.”
The regional system as a whole “has adequate power supplies and healthy reserves in operation today, and resources are more diverse than they have ever been,” the operator added. With its focus on long-term resilience, PJM is also “analyzing the grid’s ability to manage extended outages associated with potential fuel disruptions and to establish, to the extent necessary, criteria by which the value of fuel security can be incorporated into the PJM markets.”
Combined with three nuclear plants that FES, formerly a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, decided to mothball earlier in the year, with PJM’s blessing, the utility’s half-dozen plant closures now total eight gigawatts. Across the U.S., “there has been an outbreak of operators shutting down nuclear, coal, and even inefficient gas units which are struggling to compete in wholesale markets,” Utility Dive notes. “Some plant owners have asked the federal government to step in,” with FES calling for a federal emergency order to keep the plants open.
“As with nuclear, our fossil-fueled plants face the insurmountable challenge of a market that does not sufficiently value their contribution to the security and flexibility of our power system,” FES Generation President and Chief Nuclear Officer Don Moul said in August.