The Why, of Why Blackouts?

The Why, of Why Blackouts?

There is a looming threat of blackouts this summer. The Wall Street Journal reported:

“Last week the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned that two-thirds of the U.S. could experience blackouts this summer. Welcome to the ‘green energy transition.’”

The primary reason for blackouts is the addition of wind and solar to the electric grid.

As the WSJ also pointed out:

“The problem now is the loss of base-load generators that can provide reliable power 24/7.”

Coal-fired and nuclear power plants are being closed.

The Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan was shut down just a few days ago, on May 20, this year.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and ERCOT were singled out by NERC for being at most risk for blackouts this summer.

MISO has lost 2% of its firm capacity, primarily coal-fired, over the past two years, and with the closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant, has even less baseload, reliable power to meet summer demand. MISO also has a transmission line that is undergoing repairs which exacerbates the problem of having baseload, reliable power available where it is needed.

ERCOT has continued to add wind to the grid without adding sufficient natural-gas or other baseload power. Worse, ERCOT continues to include wind and solar when determining reserve margins. 

As a result, ERCOT’s stated reserve margin may be 22%, but when wind and solar isn’t available, the reserve margin is essentially zero. In other words, ERCOT continues to operate without any real reserves.  

Reserve margins using baseload power are essential because they accommodate sudden unexpected increases in demand and the unforeseen shutdown of power plants.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is responsible for overseeing the operation of the grid and is supposed to institute policies that ensure grid reliability. Instead, it has promoted the use of wind and solar which undermines grid reliability. 

Chairman Glick has pursued net-zero carbon policies and is incorporating climate change into FERC rule making.

For example, Politico noted that Glick has made “policy statements putting greater emphasis on environmental justice and climate concerns in natural gas projects.”

The intricacies of how the electric grid is managed are not transparent and are difficult to understand. 

Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (RTO/ISOs) are responsible for the day to day operation of the grid in two-thirds of the country. 

The remaining third is managed, as in the past, by state regulators and the electric utilities in their state. They have consistently ensured there has been enough reserve capacity to prevent widespread blackouts.

Map of RTO/ISOs

Efforts are underway to force these areas to become RTO/ISOs and adopt policies that force wind and solar onto the grid. 

For example, including wind and solar in capacity auctions held by some of the RTO/ISOs, adds wind and solar to the installed capacity because subsidized wind and solar can always win any auction. This results in nuclear power plants, such as the Palisades, and coal-fired power plants to close.

These policies also increase the cost of electricity.

Most people are unaware of how the grid is managed and how it is being compromised by policies encouraging the addition of unreliable wind and solar.

The book, The Looming Energy Crisis, Are Blackouts Inevitable, is required reading for anyone who is interested in the workings of the electric grid. 

As in so many things these days, people need to become involved if our country is to remain strong and free. While RTO/ISOs work behind closed doors and are difficult to monitor, there are citizens who have formed groups that dig into how their RTIO/ISO operates, and then advise their elected representatives of the problems they uncover.

Meredith Angwin’s book, Shorting the Grid, is also essential reading for anyone interested in learning how the grid operates. She has also written on how to become involved in working with RTO/ISOs.

We know there is a real problem, because of the widespread blackouts in Texas and the NE-ISO’s near blackout experience in the winter of 2018. Blackouts are a life-threatening reality. At least 100 people died in the Texas blackout. 

The lack of reliable electricity also hamstrings manufacturing plants causing further harm to our economy.

NERC’s warning of looming blackouts this summer needs to be taken seriously.

While MISO and ERCOT are seen as being the most vulnerable, blackouts can happen anywhere in the United States.

It should also be noted that, without a change in policies, i.e., abandoning net-zero carbon, the situation will get worse next year, and even worse the year after, and so on.

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8 Replies to “The Why, of Why Blackouts?”

  1. So, in our effort to save the earth, we have to sacrifice lives and reduce our quality of life. But only for certain people, Who decides who is to live and who is to die?

  2. Pingback: Renewable  Energy or Reliable Energy - but Not Both - The Post & Email

  3. Pingback: Leading the Green Lemmings - The Post & Email