Should PJM Interconnection have clean energy expert on its board?

Proponents of idea say it would help alleviate backlog of projects wanting to be approved to connect to grid

Gov. Phil Murphy has made his desire to increase the number of clean energy projects in the state abundantly clear. And developers seemingly have rushed to do so.

But, when they are ready to go, will they be able to connect them to the power grid that oversees projects in New Jersey and 12 other mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley states?

The grid, run by PJM Interconnection, has thousands of project requests asking to be connected. But, before project developers can connect new solar or wind farms to the grid, operators have to study the projects’ likely impact and sign off on them.

Among the issues slowing the process? PJM does not have an expert on clean energy projects on its board. That could change Wednesday.

The Illinois Citizens Utility Board is asking the board to include someone with “expertise in the development, integration, operation or management of clean energy resources.”

The group said 95% of the energy projects waiting to connect to the PJM grid today are solar, wind, hybrid or battery storage.

And Zach Greene, an organizer for the PJM Cities and Communities Coalition, said adding an expert on them makes sense.

“Adding a requirement for one PJM board member to have expertise in clean energy resources is a common-sense step that reflects the needs of a changing grid,” he said. “PJM itself released a strategic plan significantly focused on decarbonization and the grid of the future.

“To effectively advance this plan and reliably integrate and manage the influx of clean energy resources into the market, PJM must have a board with specialists in the technologies necessary for this transition.”

PJM already has requirements for other types of expertise on its board, including for a director with expertise in transmission utilities, one who knows financial risk management and one who is expert in transmission system operation and planning.

So, there’s precedent for requirements that create a board with deep knowledge of the work and challenges facing the regional transmission organization, Greene said.

There are about 500 voting members of PJM, but only about 150 who regularly participate in votes on proposals.