More than two-thirds of North America could see electrical outages when temperatures spike this coming summer because utilities in many areas do not have sufficient reserve generation capacity to meet surges in demand.
According to an annual summer reliability assessment published on May 17 by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the power grid in at least eight regions of the United States and one in Ontario, Canada, face elevated risk of brown-outs and black-outs during heat waves between June and September, attributed at least partially to the disruption being caused by the growing reliance on so-called “green” energies that advocates want to see supplant fossil fuels.
“The elevated risk profiles that we’re seeing are driven by a combination of conventional generation retirements seen over the last couple of years, a substantial increase in forecasted peak demand and new loads coming—we are electrifying more than we ever had in the past,” NERC Director of Reliability John Moura told reporters during a conference call following the release of the assessment.
NERC is a not-for-profit public-private entity that provides the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and state regulators with reliability assessments of the electrical grid from Canada to northern Mexico.
The report (pdf) cites the “rapidly-changing resource mix” driven by President Joe Biden’s goal to “decarbonize” the U.S. electrical grid by 2035 as spurring a disjointed transition from oil, gas, and natural gas to renewable energies, such as wind, solar, and nuclear, before the grid can adjust and expand transmission capacities.
“The drivers here are demand growth and generation retirements that take away from dispatchable generation that is needed to maintain reliability over a range of conditions,” NERC Reliability Assessments Manager Mark Olson said.
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Executive Director Greg R. White told The Epoch Times that while he had not done a deep dive on NERC’s assessment as yet, its warning of summer power outages contains “no surprises.”
“The pace in which we are closing fossil fuel plants is exceeding the pace that we are bringing new plants online,” White said. “If you are paying attention to what is going on in this industry, the industry has been saying the transition [from fossil fuels to renewables] would be challenging.”
Senior Regulatory Counsel for the American Public Power Association (APPA) John McCaffrey concurred.
“NERC’s conclusions reinforce APPA’s concerns about the reliability ramifications associated with the pace of the resource transition in the United States,” he told The Epoch Times by email.
“APPA also shares NERC’s concerns about the potential adverse reliability impacts of the current critical shortage of distribution transformers, and we agree with NERC that new distribution transformer efficiency standards recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy could worsen the transformer supply shortage.”
The NERC report maintains that constraints on natural gas and coal delivery infrastructure, new federal environmental restrictions, supply chain issues, declining water levels near some hydropower plants, and “unexpected tripping” of wind and solar resources all contribute to the uncertainty.
The assessment states that new environmental rules that restrict power plant emissions will limit the operation of coal-fired generators in 23 states.
Those new rules include most notably the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Good Neighbor Plan,” finalized in March, to ensure the 23 states meet the Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor” smog requirements “by reducing pollution that significantly contributes to problems attaining and maintaining the EPA’s health-based air quality standard for ground- level ozone in downwind states.”
The most likely way the coal- and natural gas-fired plants will meet those clean air standards is “by limiting hours of operation in this first year of implementation rather than through adding emissions control equipment.”
“As this assessment underscores, EPA’s regulatory blitz is already threatening the reliable delivery of power and undermining efforts to tame energy-driven inflation,” National Mining Association (NMA) president and CEO Rich Nolan said.