PJM still refuses to call it what it was... a failure of their planning process. But, never fear, PJM and its "stakeholders" (not to include any people who were actually affected) intend to examine it ad nauseam and recommend changes.
Here's PJM's official sequence of events and excuse for its own failure. PJM "sincerely regrets" their flub.
See another, better written and more understandable, unbiased version of events at RTO Insider here.
So, what caused this?
- Too much generation and equipment offline for routine maintenance. PJM pretends to be surprised that the weather was really hot during the first part of September. I wasn't. September can produce some really hot days -- do these guy live on the same planet as the rest of us? Maybe PJM's historical data didn't warn them that this could happen, but have they noticed that climate change has produced some really "unusual" weather over the past few years? Also, we could ponder what effect an odd really hot day would have on a system that keeps getting bigger and more interconnected while generators get bigger and farther away from load.
- Equipment failures. Transformers and transmission lines in AEP & FirstEnergy's service territory failed, causing operators to have to shift loads, which caused overloads elsewhere. Maybe if PJM didn't promote the building of new transmission to the detriment of maintenance and upgrading of existing transmission lines, equipment wouldn't be so vulnerable to failure at the first sign of stress. As well, both companies involved routinely brag to investors about cutting their maintenance costs in order to toss a few more cents into quarterly dividends. When is PJM going to enforce proactive maintenance over shareholder dividends? And, again, what if the PJM region wasn't increasingly dependent on long distance transmission to deliver electricity from greater and greater distances? "Economies of scale" mean nothing when they cause expensive "load shedding" (aka BLACKOUTS).
- Reserve generation didn't come online when called. We pay these clowns to be ready to provide extra generation when PJM says it's needed. But they just couldn't get it together -- because they weren't ready.
Why would you say we need less transmission if a transmission failure triggered a brownout or blackout. I work for a transmission company and we have been prevented from building transmission between regions designed solely to prevent situations like happened. Also, what you don't know much about is that whereever there is a lack of transmission, power plants must be run out of economic order to relieve the line congestion. This causes electric customers (everybody) to pay more. Not only are lines needed for reliability (keep the lights on) but also for economics. Economic studies determine if it's cheaper to add new lines/equipment or just redispatch generation occasionally. If done properly based on well thought out criteria, tranmission is only added when needed and is economic.
Ray also needs to ponder the wonders of distributed generation microgrids, but that's not what ITC pays him to do.
Who wants to guess how much time and money PJM spends "investigating" itself... and will the lights stay on while they dither over avoiding the obvious?