PJM’s recent report, “PJM’s Evolving Resource Mix and System Reliability,” firmly demonstrates that coal-fired electric generation is an integral component in ensuring the reliability of the electric grid. In fact, the report shows that when scoring fuel sources for seven distinct attributes of reliability and fuel assurance, coal, rather than nuclear, gas, or renewables, is the energy source that scores 100%.
In a desirable generation portfolio, one that is capable of meeting 95% or more of the identified reliability attributes, coal and natural gas represent the majority of the electric generation. Moreover, a decrease in reliability was seen with increased amounts of wind and solar generation given their intermittent nature.
The report did not focus on grid resiliency, which is the capability to meet electric demand under extreme weather or unpredicted circumstances. However, discussion of the risks associated with further reliance on a single source of generation were included, and concerns were raised regarding the ability to maintain reliability during polar-vortex conditions and fuel delivery uncertainties. Maintaining a diverse generation portfolio, inclusive of extremely reliable coal, is the most effective way to ensure grid resiliency.
Coal-fired generation has made significant technological advancements in efficiency and emission reductions, and has historically been the most economic and abundant source of energy that provides inexpensive and reliable electricity. A domestic resource vital to our energy independence, coal must continue to play a vital role in electric generation to safeguard the grid from reliability and resiliency concerns, while ensuring consumers receive affordable electricity.