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Electric grid

Background

A view of the PJM  control room. The grid operator wants to allow so-called inflexible power generators such as coal and nuclear plants to be able to build their costs into market pricing.

courtesy of PJM

A view of the PJM control room. The grid operator wants to allow so-called inflexible power generators such as coal and nuclear plants to be able to build their costs into market pricing.

The electric grid is a network encompassing power plants, power lines and related infrastructure designed to produce and transmit electricity.

Pennsylvania is a part of the PJM Interconnection, which operates the grid across parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. PJM coordinates the flow of electricity to ensure the supply always matches demand. It does not own coal plants or wind farms — that’s the role of utilities and other energy companies. But PJM directs these power generators to switch on or off based on how much electricity is required to balance the grid at any given moment.

Each generator offers electricity at a particular price to PJM, and the operator chooses whether to accept those bids. It dispatches generators, starting with the ones offering the cheapest bids, until supply matches demand.

As a result, electricity flows from generators over high-voltage transmission lines, often crossing state lines to get where PJM directs it to go. When it reaches a utility’s substation, the electricity is carried on local distribution lines into consumers’ homes and businesses.

Consumers purchase electricity from local utilities, some of which also own generators. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission regulates this retail side of the electric grid.

Latest Posts

FirstEnergy says it’s closing three nuclear plants; seeks federal help

Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pa. Photo: Reid R. Frazier

Citing “market challenges,” electric utility FirstEnergy says it will close three nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, while at the same time asking the Department of Energy for immediate help to keep its fleet of coal and nuclear plants open. The company, which could be near bankruptcy according to a report at cleveland.com, gave regional grid [...]

Power grid bracing for ‘bomb cyclone,’ bitter cold

The Bruce Mansfield Power Plant burns coal to generate electricity in Beaver County.

A one-two punch of bitter cold temperatures and Winter Storm Grayson, a so-called ‘bomb cyclone’ moving up the Atlantic Coast, will stress the electrical grid in Pennsylvania and much of the Northeast this week. But the region’s grid operator says it’s better prepared to deal with the winter misery because of recent experiences with extreme [...]

Two decades of competitive electricity in Pennsylvania

Twenty years ago, Pennsylvania enacted the Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act of 1996, shattering the long-held paradigm of monopolistic energy distribution. The act allowed Pennsylvanians to shop for competitively priced electricity from the source, choosing how it is generated it and who supplies it, essentially creating a la carte energy delivery rather than [...]

FirstEnergy idles western Pennsylvania coal plant

FirstEnergy has idled a coal burning power plant in western Pennsylvania due to historically low energy prices spurred by competition from cheap natural gas. As the fracking boom continues to unlock large quantities of gas, the nation’s electric grid is shifting away from coal.  The 340 workers at the Bruce Mansfield plant are still on the [...]

In a power shift, natural gas closes in on ‘king coal’

In Pennsylvania when you flip on a light switch, odds are you’re burning coal. But as the fracking boom continues to unlock huge quantities of natural gas, the electric grid is changing. Power plants are increasingly turning to this lower-cost, cleaner-burning fossil fuel. The shift is being driven by both market forces and new regulations.

PPL proposes new transmission line

PPL Electric Utilities is looking to build a new multi-billion dollar transmission line to keep up with natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale and the changing landscape of power generation. If approved by regulators, the high-voltage power line is still a decade away but PPL has started planning. The transmission line would start in [...]

Vulnerability of electric grid spurs upgrades and warnings

Utility officials on two sides of the state spent Tuesday discussing ways to modernize and secure the nation’s electric grid. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review covered FirstEnergy Corp.’s plans to spend $2.8 billion to upgrade four of its Ohio and Pennsylvania utilities with “smart grid” technology – sensors and controls on power lines and transmission stations that [...]

Power Companies Weigh Threat Of Cyberattacks On Electric Grid

A decade has passed since the massive 2003 blackout which plunged 50 million people in North America into the dark. Although that wasn’t caused by a cyberattack, NPR reports power company executives met recently in Washington D.C. to talk about vulnerabilities to the grid: The concern now is that a really sophisticated cyberattack could cause [...]

FirstEnergy May Delay Closing Western Pa. Coal Plants

FirstEnergy Corp. may delay closing a pair of coal-fired power plants in Western Pennsylvania, over concerns about grid reliability. Last month FirstEnergy announced it would close the Hatfield’s Ferry plant in Masontown and the Mitchell Power Station in Courtney on October 9 and layoff 380 employees. The company cited the burdensome cost of installing equipment to comply [...]

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