Can US Grid Stand the Heat? (or the Cold?)

June 20, 2022

NBC report points out vulnerabilities of conventional generation, particularly gas, to heat extremes.

CleanTechnica:

Wind and solar power turned a neat trick in Texas this week, with turbines and PV panels continuing to churn out electricity as the entire southwest baked under yet another round of record setting high temperatures. That may come as somewhat as a surprise. After all, Texas is a global leader in oil and gas production, and its coal industry isn’t too shabby, either. Nevertheless, when it comes to delivering the kilowatts under extreme conditions, renewables are delivering the goods.

Hojun Choi of the Dallas Morning News recapped the state of play on Thursday morning, writing that “renewable energy sources came through in a big way this week for Texas, when temperatures and electricity demand reached record levels.”

As reported by Choi, Texans hit a new record for electricity demand on June 12, racking up triple-digit temperatures that tied a century-old set in the Dallas-Fort-Worth area. Instead of wilting under the pressure, wind and solar power plants ramped up to supply about 1/3 of the state’s electricity. That beats the typical average, which is already impressive compared to the output from renewables in other US states.

The news is especially significant when compared to last year’s devastating, storm-related power outage in Texas. Fossil energy stakeholders were quick to lay the blame on the state’s robust wind industry. However, all sources were impacted by the grid-wide failure, and over-reliance on gas power plants during the winter emerged as the main culprit.

“The proportion of energy generated from wind power in Texas set a new record on April 10, when it contributed to about 69% of the total electricity on the ERCOT grid,” Choi added. “Solar energy generation in the state’s main power grid set a new record on May 19, when it accounted for 14.62% of the electricity in the system.”

Below, reminder that failure of gas generation was largely responsible for the Texas blackout of winter 2021.

Key takeaway – rebuilding. the US grid to better distribute clean energy is not an option. The aging, creaky grid is rapidly decaying into developing world status, and if we assume that this country wants to maintain leadership, or at least parity, with Europe and Asia, we have to bite the bullet and get moving.

Canary Media:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday unveiled a new plan to speed up and streamline what’s become a slow and expensive process of connecting new solar, wind and battery projects to U.S. transmission grids. 

Years-long waiting times and potentially project-killing grid-upgrade costs are preventing hundreds of gigawatts’ worth of clean energy projects from being connected to U.S. power grids. These snarled-up interconnection processes are threatening to drive up energy prices and reduce grid reliability, and have become major barriers to building the carbon-free resources needed to forestall the most catastrophic harms of climate change.

FERC proposed a host of major regulatory changes meant to unclog these bottlenecks. The proposed rules would require transmission grid operators, transmission-owning utilities and energy project developers alike to take on new responsibilities, with the potential for financial penalties if they fail to do so. 

The proposed rules now face months of comment and debate between energy developers, grid operators, utilities, state regulators and other stakeholders. FERC could make significant changes to them before it votes on whether to adopt the rules. 

And while FERC’s notice of proposed rulemaking would adopt many interconnection reforms long sought by clean energy groups, it does not address the contentious issue of how the costs of upgrading the grid to handle new power projects could be shifted from project developers to the customers served by the grids they’re connecting to. 

Clean-energy groups praised FERC’s new proposals, while also highlighting that these cost-allocation issues remain a major problem to be solved. 

“The proposed package of interconnection reforms is extraordinarily important, and would go a long way toward addressing the huge backlogs we’re seeing across the country,” Gabe Tabak, counsel for the American Clean Power Association trade group, said in a Thursday interview. ​“However, the most important aspect not in the proposed rule is how to allocate the costs of network upgrades. We expect that FERC will need to tackle that issue in the near future.”

Enrico Viale, head of renewable energy developer Enel North America, said in a Thursday email that while FERC’s new proposal ​“represents significant progress, there’s still work to be done” — notably ​“addressing the participant-funding piece of this puzzle.”

FERC voted unanimously to propose the rules, underscoring the consensus that today’s interconnection processes need to be reformed to bring energy resources online more quickly to provide low-cost and reliable power to increasingly stressed grids, FERC Chair Richard Glick said in a Thursday press conference. 

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