The Energy Watchdog has found that closing fossil fuel plants creates long-term vulnerabilities for the US electric grid

The US electric grid has highlighted a number of problems facing the country’s power grid that could lead to devastating outages and supply shortages over the next decade, according to a long-term analysis released Thursday by a top regulatory body.

The North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC)—a nonprofit organization that regularly monitors the grid and makes periodic recommendations to enhance reliability—identified in its annual Long-Term Reliability Assessment (LTRA) report that large swaths of the United States have a high or elevated risk of capacity shortages. The report noted that one of the main problems facing the grid is that utility companies have retired from existing fossil fuel power generation too quickly without ensuring that there are sufficient alternative sources.

“Parts of the North American bulk energy system face resource or energy capacity risks as early as the summer of 2023,” the report stated.

“The capacity deficits, where they are expected, are largely the result of the retirement of generators that have not yet been replaced,” she continued. “While some regions have sufficient capacity resources, power constraints and unavailable generation during certain conditions (eg, low winds, severe and prolonged cold weather) can result in an inability to meet all established demands.”

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A view of windmills and power lines in Tracy, Calif., on August 17. (Reuters/Carlos Parrea/Reuters Photo/Reuters Photo)

The LTRA report stated that California, and large parts of the Midwest and South face a high risk of power shortages between 2023 and 2027, meaning those areas could experience blackouts under normal peak conditions. Texas and the Northeast and West are at high risk, which means they could experience power outages during extreme conditions.

In addition to early retirements, the assessment found that U.S. grid systems are vulnerable to weather extremes and are not fully prepared for the expansion of electrification in transportation, space heating, and other sectors that could lead to increased demand for electricity.

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While NERC supports grid transitions to cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar, the group warned that failure to properly implement the transition could lead to a significant drop in reliability across the country.

“Two key concepts that come out of our report this year relate to transformation and the ability to manage the pace of transition in an orderly way and to ensure that new resources, when they replace the retiring generation, provide adequate power but also essential reliability of services,” said John Mora, director of reliability assessment and performance analysis. at NERC, to reporters on a briefing call Thursday.

“In other words, we need to manage the pace of changing resource mix to ensure that we appropriately plan and operate the wholesale energy system,” he added.

External solar panels in front of the wind turbine

The Whitridge Renewable Energy facility is pictured Sept. 28 in Oregon. (Sarah Hammaker/Portland General Electric via AP) (Sarah Hammaker/Portland General Electric via AP/AP Images)

In one example of future shortcomings, the LTRA report highlighted how the region manages the independent system operator in the mid-continent, which oversees much of the Midwest, where natural gas and coal retirements are expected to outpace green energy development.

In another example, the NERC concluded that a lack of natural gas pipeline transportation in New England could lead to supply shortages in the coming years.

The report also warned that the pace of California power generation retirements could lead to more problems.

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“There is an additional 22 gigawatts of generation that could be retired in the next five years, and in many cases this could exacerbate the risk of power and capacity shortages,” Mark Olson, director of reliability ratings at NERC, told reporters Thursday.

“This really underscores the need to have robust planning processes in place that can manage the pace of retirement, prevent risks and make sure we maintain system reliability and the core reliability services that maintain system redundancy and stability,” Olson said.

President Biden speaking at the event

President Biden has pushed an aggressive climate agenda since taking office, funding renewable energy projects, shutting down fossil fuel production and setting ambitious decarbonization targets. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool, File/AP Newsroom)

Meanwhile, federal and state lawmakers have pushed policies that would shift the grid from one that relies primarily on fossil fuels like natural gas and coal to one that relies more on clean energy like wind and solar. At the same time, lawmakers have also supported the expansion of electric vehicles which will increase demand on the grid.

However, experts warned that haste in such a shift could have devastating effects on consumers.

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“The Biden administration has, from the beginning, pursued policies to move away aggressively from fossil fuel generation,” Neil Chatterjee, former FERC chair, told Fox News Digital.

“I’m someone who’s passionate about the energy transition and I think there are huge benefits to Americans from the energy transition, but there are some people within the administration who would like to skip the transitional part of the energy transition, and move away significantly from the necessary generation that we need.”

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