By Tsvetana Paraskova – May 20, 2023, 2:00 PM CDT
- This summer, there may be a risk of electrical power shortages in two-thirds of North America.
- Wide-area heat events pose a greater threat to the western United States.
- The risk of failure also increases as a result of new EPA environmental regulations that restrict emissions from power plants.
According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), this summer’s severe weather will put a strain on the U.S. power grids, putting two-thirds of North America in danger of experiencing electrical power shortages during periods of peak demand on the busiest days.
The grid would function in a typical summer with normal temperatures since there would be enough resources to meet demand. The U.S. West, the Midwest, Texas, Southeast, and New England, as well as Ontario in Canada, may experience supply shortages if midsummer temperatures rise above average and heatwaves sweep throughout North America, according to NERC’s 2023 Summer Reliability Assessment.
In the past couple of years, as the potential of power shortages has increased due to the retirement of reliable dispatchable power plants, NERC has been issuing annual warnings about the grid’s susceptibility to severe weather.
Increasing the amount of wind, solar, and batteries has had a positive impact, according to Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments.
However, as summer temperatures rise, generator retirements continue to heighten the risks associated with extreme heat, which might lead to supply shortages in the western two-thirds of North America.
- While this year’s review did not identify any high-risk areas, it did identify more areas that were considered to be at elevated risk, according to NERC.
Wide-area heat events, which typically come with wildfire risks to the transmission network and put the U.S. West in greater danger, can limit electrical power transfers and cause localised load shedding.
Despite ERCOT adding more than 4 GW of new solar capacity to the grid starting in 2022, dispatchable output in Texas might not be enough to cover reserves during a severe heatwave with weak winds. As a result of economic growth, ERCOT’s peak need prediction has also climbed by 6%, according to NERC.
According to NERC, the threat of a dry spell and heat waves in ERCOT might tax system resources and necessitate emergency measures, such as the need for operator-controlled load shedding during periods of low wind and high generator interruptions.
If wind generator energy output is less than expected, the grids in the Southwest and Midwest have challenges in meeting peak demand during summer heatwaves.
New EPA environmental regulations that restrict emissions from power plants are among other reliability problems, according to the NERC research. These new regulations will limit the use of coal-fired generators in 23 states, including Nevada, Utah, and several Gulf Coast, mid-Atlantic, and Midwest states.
The Biden Administration is continuing its attempts to decarbonize the economy and the grids by proposing brand-new regulations on carbon emissions from coal and natural gas-fired power facilities earlier this month.
According to NERC, issues with the supply chain are delaying some capability expansions and creating difficulties for maintenance and summertime preparedness.
According to the company, “unexpected tripping of wind and solar resources during grid disruptions continues to be a dependability issue.”
This winter’s grid issues in many parts of the United States would be followed by a summer of heat waves and power outages. A winter storm over the Christmas holidays exposed the weakness of the energy system as gas and power supplies were strained, wells were scorned and energies largely disregarded the need for power throughout the storm.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), a trade group for almost 900 regional electricity cooperatives in the United States, called NERC’s assessment of grid dependability for this summer “a particularly alarming caution.”
Speaking about NERC’s dependability assessment, NRECA president Jim Matheson said, “This report is a particularly alarming caution that America’s ability to keep the lights on has actually been threatened.”
“Proposals like the recently announced EPA power plant rule will significantly exacerbate the problem. This is a reality that we will have to cope with for a very long time since we failed to notice a big change in state and federal energy policy.
Additionally, Matheson remembered that “the decisions we make now determine whether the nation’s energies have the resources to drive the American economy tomorrow. Before it’s too late, federal policy ought to grasp the threatened reliability reality facing the nation.
For Oilprice.com, by Tsvetana Paraskova
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Tsvetana has been writing for news organisations including iNVEZZ and SeeNews for more than a decade. She currently writes for Oilprice.com.