Zachary Zimmerman, Dinos Gonatas, Anjali, Patel, and Rob Gramlich
May 2024

Key Takeaways

The United States needs to expand electricity transmission capacity to meet growing demand, facilitate new generation interconnection and retirements, provide resilience against extreme weather, and reduce cap constraints hindering access to low-cost energy sources. However, building new high-capacity transmission is challenging, and currently not enough high-capacity lines are being planned or developed.

A key barrier to transmission development is a lack of proactive transmission planning. Opponents and skeptics of proactive planning often raise the specter of uncertainty and speculation as a roadblock to achieving robust and reliable results. But these concerns will not be resolved by ignoring the massive changes impacting the energy industry and continuing to plan reactively. Rather, uncertainty is best addressed by incorporating best available data on the future resource mix to conduct scenario analyses in which different futures are tested to determine the optimum set of transmission solutions, all of which is now required for regional transmission planning by FERC Order No. 1920.

Proactive, scenario-based long-term regional planning is especially critical for PJM because many states have deregulated utilities and rely on PJM’s interconnection queue and regional capacity market. This paradigm necessitates greater regional planning and coordination to ensure the transmission needed is planned and developed to provide ratepayers with reliable and affordable power given the reality of the future generation mix.

While there is no singular right way to plan, there are better and worse ways. We developed this report to demonstrate that there is better data available to inform a more robust planning process. We focus here on the initial inputs on which PJM transmission plans should be based– load, retirements, and new generation needs. The information presented herein is not intended to set the boundaries on how PJM’s assumptions and planning processes should evolve, but rather should serve as a platform to encourage a broader discussion on needed improvements.

To address uncertainty and ensure results are verifiable, this report is based on two futures scenarios developed using publicly available data on estimates of load growth, modeled retirements, new generation, and clean energy demand from states, utilities, and large energy buyers in 2040.

  • The Expected scenario represents the most likely estimate of future needs given consideration of all the inputs.
  • The High scenario represents a future with greater energy needs due to accelerated electrification, more generator retirements, and additional clean energy demand.