Renewables Integration and New Technologies

Keeping reliability in the forefront in the midst of policy and system changes

Over the last two years, the Region has proactively analyzed reliability implications from environmental regulations and the impact on generation resources from new technologies. These changes have a significant effect on planning and operating the Bulk Power System (BPS). The Supreme Court has stayed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the Trump administration has focused efforts on reevaluating previous regulation of energy resources; however, renewable energy economic drivers continue to influence unconventional resource mix changes across the system.

Policy changes, fuel costs, subsidies, and societal awareness led the industry to shift from traditional fossil fuel baseload generation and introduce newer energy resources. Across the Region, entities expect to retire ~4 GW of coal-fired generation and anticipate bringing ~15 GW of natural gas generation additions online over the next ten years. Although the industry projects significant increases in variable energy resources, this growth is not visible via SERC data collection efforts. SERC entities report only 900 MW of solar and wind to be online in the Region, with little to no growth in Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), over the next five years. This is counter intuitive provided the  growth of the solar industry in the eastern part of the Region due to incentives provided with state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards1. This fact highlights the need for further data collection efforts at SERC to increase visibility of VER growth in order to understand its impacts on system load and reliability.


Assessing Generation Retirements

Planning Coordinators (PC) within the SERC Long Term Study Group (LTSG) performed a CPP scenario study to assess the reliability implications of transmission adequacy and resource deficiency within the SERC footprint. Adjacent Regions were also involved in the study process, which utilized a 2022 summer peaking power flow model and NERC’s Integrated Planning Model (IPM) dataset. The graphic below highlights a comparison between the IPM dataset and retirements accepted by the LTSG from a SERC subregional level. Although the Delta subregion appears to have the most retirements in the case study, Gateway leads the Region with ~25%-30% of planned and scenario-based retirements.

Study Procedure and Results:

Each SERC study representative performed an area-wide assessment in order to determine if their SERC Balancing Authority area contained enough remaining resources to serve their load obligations. The study also evaluated the strength of the SERC interconnected network by performing steady-state contingency analysis and identifying transmission constraints.

High Level Study Results
SERC Subregions Retirements compared to Total case generation online Proxy Generation utilization Importing Power Limiting Facilities
Central 5%-10% 1 Member 1 Member 4 Members
Delta 10%-15% 1 Member 1 Member
Gateway 25%-30% 1 Member 1 Member 1 Member
Southeastern 10%-15% 1 Member
VACAR 5%-10% 2 Members 2 Members

The study results highlighted several potential transmission reliability concerns and area-wide resource deficiency concerns. Four areas utilized replacement proxy generation to compensate for generation deficiencies and three areas imported power from neighboring companies to make up for their deficiencies.  All subregions experienced transmission constraints that impacted the reliable operation of the BPS. For more information on the study, please follow the link to the public report.

Assessing The Renewable Generation Impact

In parallel with the SERC LTSG effort, members of the SERC Resource Adequacy Working Group (RAWG) analyzed the impact of replacing coal generation with renewable energy (VERs). The group’s analysis found that replacing coal generation with renewables requires higher reserve margins to ensure reliability, due to the variable nature of renewable resources. In addition, the resource adequacy risk shifts from the summer peak to other seasons.

This information may inform individual entity studies of the potential risks associated with increased reliance on VERs in place of traditional thermal generation resources.

Next Steps

As the industry works to understand the impacts of VERs deployed on the system, it recognizes that it needs Essential Reliability Services to provide system support. In addition, the Region will perform ongoing analysis and ensure operational plans are in place to maintain a reliable system. Entities should develop real-time operating procedures; build contingency plans to address gas and electric interdependencies; ensure ramping capability, stability, and voltage support; and have a robust load forecasting methodology.

SERC’s mission is to promote reliability as an essential societal objective when advising those charged with making new policies that impact the BPS. The Region will continue to analyze and monitor policy changes and communicate results from analysis to inform industry discussions regarding the reliability impacts to reactive stability, generation and transmission adequacy. For more information on SERC’s data collections and reliability assessments, please see the Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis webpages.