About 18,000 megawatts of coal and nuclear plants — enough to power 13.5 million homes — are slated to permanently shut across the eastern U.S. grid. And the region still has enough electricity to keep the lights on, according to the chief executive officer of the grid operator.
In fact, “we could sustain essentially in the 30,000 megawatt range,” PJM Interconnection LLC Chief Executive Officer Andy Ott said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “If it gets beyond that, then we start to look at the alternatives for firming up resources.”
Ott’s comments echo the results of an analysis PJM conducted last year that showed the grid remains reliable despite the dozens of coal and nuclear power plants going out of business because of cheaper natural gas generators and new renewable energy sources. The findings fly in the face of the Trump administration’s warnings that the retirements threaten the resilience of the grid and the nation’s security.
PJM runs a grid that stretches from Washington, D.C., to Chicago and a market that supplies power to more than 65 million people. Should it need to firm up resources, Ott said, the region could look into options including building more natural gas storage tanks; sourcing more trucks to deliver fuel; and finding ways to keep at least some coal and nuclear plants online.
Gas plant operators should meanwhile increase the amount of supplies they keep on site to five days’ worth, he said, up from about 30 to 40 hours’ worth now. Adding battery storage to wind and solar farms could also improve reliability, Ott said.