PJM Close to New Rules for Utility-Owned Microgrids

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The PJM Interconnection is getting close to approving rules governing microgrids operated by distribution utilities or third parties on their behalf — what it calls public distribution microgrids.

public distribution microgrid

By ART STOCK CREATIVE/Shutterstock.com

After being approved by various stakeholder panels, the PJM’s Markets and Reliability Committee (MRC) is set to review the proposed rules at a December 17 meeting and potentially endorse them in January.

Once endorsed at the MRC the microgrid rules would be published in PJM’s Manual 14D and would become effective, according to Andrew Levitt, a senior market design specialist for the grid operator.

The rules remove a few PJM-side barriers to the development of a particular type of public microgrid on the distribution system, Levitt said.

The planned rules only apply to distribution-level microgrids, according to a December 3 presentation by the grid operator’s staff. The microgrids may not include any bulk electric system components or transmission facilities.

PJM defines public distribution microgrids

Under the planned rules, public distribution microgrids, or PDMs, must include load, one or more generators, one or more switches for isolating from and connecting to the broader grid, and a microgrid controller.

A PDM generator must sell its power to PJM, which operates the grid and power markets in 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states and the District of Columbia.

When in island mode, the electric distribution company can operate the microgrid at the wholesale or retail level, according to the presentation.

The proposed rules require the microgrid generator operators to notify PJM of the start and end of planned and actual islanded conditions as soon as possible. To facilitate the notification, the microgrid operator must provide all necessary information to the microgrid generator operator on an ongoing basis, PJM staff said.

No islanding for economic reasons

PJM is proposing to bar utility microgrids from going into island mode for economic reasons, according to the presentation. 

The only reasons they could disconnect from the grid would be:

  • An emergency situation on the distribution or transmission system
  • A situation affecting system restoration
  • An emergency on the transmission system in which PJM orders load shedding
  • An emergency declaration by local, state or federal authorities
  • Testing and distribution facility maintenance

When in island mode, PJM plans to require a microgrid operator to “de-assign” the PDM from any existing ancillary services commitments, the grid operator’s staff said. The operator will be required to make sure the microgrid is not assigned for ancillary services for future intervals unless it is certain it will be connected to the grid in those intervals. 

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Under the planned rules, a PDM generator must meet existing telemetry requirements for all PJM generators. Also, if it has real-time data on whether it is islanded or not, the generator must provide that information to PJM, according to the presentation. 

Also, the planned rules require a PDM operator to give public distribution generators the real-time status of any switching or relay that indicates the status of the utility microgrid.

A transmission owner that is planning, or has a distribution affiliate that is planning, a PDM with automatic separation should provide the grid operator with the details of how the relay would automatically open the switch, according to the presentation.

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  1. “The proposed rules require the microgrid generator operators to notify PJM of the start and end of planned and actual islanded conditions as soon as possible. To facilitate the notification, the microgrid operator must provide all necessary information to the microgrid generator operator on an ongoing basis, PJM staff said.”

    All it sounds like to me is more “avoided costs” by the participating IOU utilities in the PJM sphere of influence. PJMs insistence of selling power to PJM only still seems to acknowledge “over the fence rules” that don’t fully allow larger solar PV operations like those installed on warehouse or commercial building roofs and have Energy storage that can extend the solar PV generated day into the night. All the value of “time shifting” non-fueled generation to later hours allows PJM to enjoy TOU rate spiking programs with cheap time shifted energy, but not necessarily benefit the local community with less rate spiking on their late afternoon and early evening hours.

    Wasn’t there recently an investigation into power policies in Ohio and HB6 subsidies to nuclear and coal fired plants in the Ohio service area? Perhaps it’s time to put these “avoided costs” enjoyed by rote utilities under the micro-scope and see how they stack up to what’s happened in Ohio and how these practices relate to the RICO statutes. Example: I pay it forward and put in my own solar PV system, the excess generation goes right next door to my neighbor’s house that doesn’t have solar PV. But, the utility doesn’t unbundle the cost of a kWh of (non-fueled) solar PV energy used and take out the O&M, TD&D, “fuel surcharge” costs from my neighbor’s use of excess solar PV.

    These “avoided costs” to the utility are little different than the Ohio HB6 subsidies to the local utilities. Especially since it seems utilities are allowed to depreciate assets on their taxes, what happens to this money? Does it go back into the grid infrastructure? Probably not.