Grid Watchdog Warns That Dems’ Climate Agenda Could Put Large Swaths Of US At ‘Elevated Risk’ For Blackouts

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  • Large portions of the U.S. face elevated long-term grid reliability risks, in large part because of premature retirements of fossil fuel-fired power plants that green energy generation can not yet replace in an adequate, reliable and affordable fashion, according to a new report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).
  • New England, the Southwest, the West Coast and most of the Midwest face elevated or high risks of electricity shortages in the coming years, according to the NERC report.
  • “New environmental regulations and incentives are likely to drive even higher levels of retirements than what we’ve accounted for,” Mark Olson, the manager for NERC’s reliability reports, told reporters Wednesday.

Most of the U.S. faces elevated or high risk of power shortages in the long-term due to premature retirement of fossil fuel-fired generation sources, a trend that is driven by Democrats’ plans to transform the American energy mix, according to a new report from a leading power grid watchdog group.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) “2023 Long Term Reliability Assessment” report finds that New Englanders and nearly every American living west of the Mississippi River faces elevated or high risks of blackouts in the long-term. The report identifies the premature closure of coal- and gas-fired power plants as a key reason for the risks to reliability, especially as peak demand is growing while green energy generation sources have struggled to prove they can adequately replace fossil fuel-fired capacity.

Customers in the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) region, which spans much of the Midwest, face the worst risks of a shortage. The MISO grid faces elevated blackout risks during normal peak conditions, according to the NERC report.

Other regions, such as the West Coast, Southwest and New England, face shortage risks under extreme conditions.(RELATED: EPA’s New Climate Rule Would Cause Rolling Blackouts In Huge Swath Of America, Analysis Finds)

While the Biden administration, led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has moved to clamp down on coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, the green energy alternatives that the administration favors have not yet materialized as scalable, affordable and reliable replacements for generation.

Additionally, as the administration pushes for widespread electrification, peak demand levels will also rise considerably in the coming years. A separate report by NERC highlighted President Joe Biden’s energy policy as one of the five most significant threats to grid reliability nationwide in August.

“New environmental regulations and incentives are likely to drive even higher levels of retirements than what we’ve accounted for,” Mark Olson, the manager for NERC’s reliability reports, told reporters Wednesday.

All of these factors combine to deliver a potentially dangerous situation wherein peak demand increases substantially while generation capacity flatlines or grows at a much slower rate. “Summer peak demand is forecast to increase another 10% by 2032 while resources are expected to grow modestly by 4%,” the report states.

The report directly addresses the EPA power plant proposal in its analysis. NERC posits that the EPA regulation would “result in an increase in the rate of generator retirements,” and that “natural-gas-fired generator retirements are also expected to increase” under the proposed rules because of the costs of retrofitting natural gas plants with expensive carbon capture technology needed to stay in compliance.

The NERC report also broaches the impact of state green energy policies on grid reliability. In its regional assessment for Democrat-controlled New York state, NERC asserts that the state’s need for reliability backstops is partially attributable to “the assumed unavailability of certain generation types in New York City that are affected by a state law to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.”

Michigan, a Democrat-controlled state in the MISO region that recently enacted its own ambitious green energy mandate, will rely heavily on solar and wind to meet demand in the future. The report explicitly warns that “new wind and solar [photovoltaic] resources use inverters to convert their output power onto the grid, and the vast majority of resource inverters are susceptible to tripping or power disruption during normal grid fault conditions,” which “makes the future grid less reliable when more resources are inverter-based.”

The White House, the EPA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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