NRDC Statement on PJM Outages During Winter Storm Elliott

NEW YORK - Members of PJM met today to review operational challenges during Winter Storm Elliott from December 23-25, which resulted in rolling outages in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Today PJM announced that: 

  • Fossil fuel power plants failed at an “unacceptable” level. 
  • Natural gas fired plants failed at over triple the rate of other technologies. 
  • Power plants have already received payment for promises of reliable service in this year's capacity auction, and the penalties that will come in the wake of this storm will only be a fraction of what they have already received. 

Tom Rutigliano, senior advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) made the following statement: 

“Yet again, system-wide fossil fuel plant failures came close to causing a major disaster. As Winter Storm Elliott went on, power plant after power plant failed. Some couldn’t get fuel, some just stopped working, and still others failed to start when called on. Increasingly extreme weather events are all but certain to continue, so let’s apply the lessons from this storm and others that came before it to improve the grid and protect customers in PJM territory.” 

“History has proven again and again that gas is not as firm as it claims to be, and reliability will continue to suffer until that fact is accepted. PJM must plan accordingly, and reform rules that subsidize fossil fuel power plants by pretending they’re more reliable than they really are.” 

“PJM’s year-round capacity market was designed to meet surging demand during the hottest days of the year, but isn’t doing well at meeting winter needs. It should be split into seasonal markets that can focus on each season’s unique challenges. FERC needs to take a serious look at how the industry is preparing for cold weather and find the political will to set binding winterization standards, including on natural gas supply. And lastly, PJM and FERC need to fix market structures that reward unreliable power plants.” 

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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