Energy Logjam Threatens Renewable Transition

May 9, 2022

Everywhere you look, there are warnings flashing for the energy transition.
Above, massive drought in the US west threatens not just water supplies, but energy production from critical hydro systems.
In much of the world, the Covid Crisis, and Russia’s war of choice in Ukraine, combined with bureaucratic snafus, a trade and tariff investigation in the US, and bad faith misinformation and NIMBYism, could set the stage for major pile-up in energy markets.

While renewables are being built, the pace is not quick enough to head off climate change, and, at the moment, not even quick enough to replace older power plants going off line.

Wall Street Journal:

From California to Texas to Indiana, electric-grid operators are warning that power-generating capacity is struggling to keep up with demand, a gap that could lead to rolling blackouts during heat waves or other peak periods as soon as this year.

California’s grid operator said Friday that it anticipates a shortfall in supplies this summer, especially if extreme heat, wildfires or delays in bringing new power sources online exacerbate the constraints. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, which oversees a large regional grid spanning much of the Midwest, said late last month that capacity shortages may force it to take emergency measures to meet summer demand and flagged the risk of outages. In Texas, where a number of power plants lately went offline for maintenance, the grid operator warned of tight conditions during a heat wave expected to last into the next week.

The risk of electricity shortages is rising throughout the U.S. as traditional power plants are being retired more quickly than they can be replaced by renewable energy and battery storage. Power grids are feeling the strain as the U.S. makes a historic transition from conventional power plants fueled by coal and natural gas to cleaner forms of energy such as wind and solar power, and aging nuclear plants are slated for retirement in many parts of the country.

The challenge is that wind and solar farms—which are among the cheapest forms of power generation—don’t produce electricity at all times and need large batteries to store their output for later use. While a large amount of battery storage is under development, regional grid operators have lately warned that the pace may not be fast enough to offset the closures of traditional power plants that can work around the clock.

Utility Dive:

  • The Midcontinent Independent System Operator is projecting a 5 GW shortfall in firm generation to meet projected load this summer, and it is working with member companies “to prepare for the worst-case scenarios.”
  • MISO discussed its generation and transmission assessment during a summer 2022 readiness workshop on Wednesday. The grid operator is forecasting a summer peak of 124 GW, with about 119 GW of “projected regularly available generation.”

The dire assessment released Wednesday shouldn’t come as a surprise, said MISO officials.

“The seasonal assessment aligns with the cleared resources identified in the 2022-2023 Planning Resource Auction, which indicated capacity shortfalls in both the north and central regions of MISO and leaving those areas at increased risk of temporary, controlled outages to preserve the integrity of the bulk electric system,” MISO Executive Director of Market Operations JT Smith said in a statement.

The auction resulted in capacity prices jumping to $236.66/MW-dayfrom $5/MW-day the previous year. The grid is experiencing higher projected electricity use alongside reduced power supply.

Heading into this summer, “emergency resources and non-firm energy imports will be needed to maintain system reliability,” according MISO’s presentation. “Under typical demand and generation outages, insufficient firm resources are projected to be available to cover summer peak forecasts.”

PV Magazine:

PJM Interconnection, the largest electrical grid operator in the US is proposing a two-year pause on reviewing interconnection requests for its eastern US regional transmission network, as the operator looks to work through its more than 1,200 energy project backlog, with most of these projects being solar.

For newly-proposed projects the wait could be much, much longer.

The proposal is outlined in PJM’s Interconnection Process Reform Task Force (IPRTF) Update, which was presented on January 24. According to PJM, the increased economic viability of solar energy projects, rapidly-scaling corporate interest in investing in solar, state-level energy policies, and the Biden administration’s continued commitment of expanding the resource have all contributed to a massive influx of new project interconnection requests, and a queue that grows considerably by the day.

As outlined by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s Gwen Brown and Sky Stanfield in a recent op-ed in pv magazine USA, literally every grid-connected project must go through the interconnection process, a process which is not designed to deliver timely results, nor handle a backlog of such magnitude. Most current interconnection policies handle each request on a project-by-project basis, and were developed prior to the popularization of rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources (DER).

And while time can be spent identifying specific shortcomings and necessary improvements of current interconnection standards, the reality of the situation is that PJM’s proposal threatens to stall or lead to the cancellation of thousands of projects, leave developers in dire financial straits, and damage the efficacy of state and federal commitments to transitioning this country to a renewably-powered grid.

Immediate potential for yet another crunch in Texas as an early season heat wave extends for another week.
Spring is normally the time when thermal power plants can be shut down for maintainence. This week, many have been rushed back into service to keep up with heat driven demand.

Houston Chronicle:

The state’s power grid manager on Friday extended its warning of potential emergency conditions into next week, expecting hot weather to keep power supplies tight through Thursday as Texans crank up air conditioners.

High temperatures are expected to reach the 90s for most of the state and stay there through next week. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, has already asked generators that were offline for maintenance to begin producing power to ensure there will be enough electricity to meet the projected increase in demand. In a statement earlier this week, ERCOT officials said they would use all the tools they have to prevent potential blackouts.


2 Responses to “Energy Logjam Threatens Renewable Transition”

  1. Another great article..please do one on this:

    Why is Nobody pushing Deep Geothermal. Deep-Geo could really Save Us if new drilling Technology really works and isn’t buried..

    check out: ‘The Perfect Energy Source Is Already Here – Endless Geothermal Is Poised for Release From Deep in the Earth’.. By Andy Corbley at goodnewsnetwork Mar 15, 2022
    and here:’We Can really Save the Planet!! Deep-Geo Drilling method offers Endless free Steam energy Anywhere’

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