U.S. Faces ‘Elevated Risk of Blackouts’ This Summer, Watchdog Warns

Extreme summer heat increases risk of power grid instability, according to report by North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Certain areas of America face an “elevated risk of blackouts” and energy shortages this summer amid surging electricity demand, according to a report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Over half the U.S., including the Midwest, New England and the region from California to Louisiana in particular face “potential for insufficient operating reserves” for the upcoming June-September period.

According to NERC reliability assessments manager Mark Olsen, these areas could face blackouts “under an event that is on the caliber of a once-per-decade heat wave.”

The report explains how these areas will be affected by energy problems for different reasons.

From CNET:

Retirement of natural gas-powered generators In New England could lead to less power capacity. Insufficient solar output and wind output during hours of peak demand might also pose some reliability issues in Texas, California, the Southwest and Midcontinental states. Extreme heat waves make transmitting power from other areas difficult. 

The American power grid system is comprised of six regional operators, Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO), Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC), ReliabilityFirst (RF), SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC), Texas Reliability Entity (Texas RE), and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC).

The report noted that most of these providers should be able to meet the energy demand, except in cases when “demand is high and wind and solar output is low in specific areas, straining the transmission system.”

The report claims that the steady addition of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, to the power grid has helped meet the power demand in some areas across the U.S.

“A lot of solar came onto the system,” Olson said. “And we’ve had more capacity stick around in some areas that were of concern in the past and that has helped to enable all areas to have resources for normal peak conditions as demand is growing.”

But America’s Power CEO Michelle Bloodworth said the report reveals the power grid is “increasingly reliant on weather-dependent sources of electricity” like solar and wind power, which puts “one-third of the country at elevated risk of blackouts this summer.”

“Delayed coal plant retirements are playing a key role in supporting grid reliability. However, this is only a temporary band-aid because EPA regulations will cause more coal retirements that cannot be delayed. These regulations, especially the recently announced Carbon Rule, increase the chance of blackouts,” Bloodworth said.

“With electricity demand exploding, our country needs a strategy for ensuring a healthy long-term electricity supply that doesn’t depend on the sun and the wind and is not dictated by EPA regulations,” she added.

The EPA last month announced a $7 billion “Solar For All” grant scheme that aims to create residential solar projects to more than 900,000 homes in “low-income and disadvantaged communities” across America.

Couple that with the EPA’s “Good Neighbor Plan” that requires energy companies to reduce reliable energy sources like coal and nuclear to decrease nitrogen oxide emissions, and America faces a recipe for rolling power outages.

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