Operators Worried About the Grid

Aaron Foyer
Texas grid operator at hearing
Courtesy of CT Insider

Last week, a number of high-ranking officials from both the US and Canada publicly discussed “blackouts” and “instability”. Far from harking back to college Saturday night, this was all about the power grid.

What’s happening: Grid operators on both sides of the 49th publicly raised concerns over how the rapid change of the grid’s makeup could lead to reliability issues for customers.

It’s not ideal feedback given governments from both countries have laid out sizeable incentives for the development of renewables over the next decade.

In the US: Officials from all seven of the country’s grid operators appeared before a House subcommittee last week. In the meeting, they unanimously warned that multiplying electricity demand through electrification while rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels poses a significant risk to power grids.

  • Todd Ramey of the Midcontinent ISO said that grid reliability would be “compromised” if polluting generators are phased out before being sufficiently replaced.

The president and CEO of the ISO New England estimates the region will see a doubling of average power demand and tripling in winter by 2050.

And in Canada: The chief executive of the Alberta Electric System Operator was lockstep with American officials. Last week, Mike Law said the country’s announced federal net-zero electricity regulations would force the province to impose brownouts to safeguard the system’s continued operation.

  • According to S&P Global analyst Ben Levitt, “relying on new technologies with limited commercial track record to replace the reliability attributes provided by the gas fleet within a 12-year time span would be very challenging and costly.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced the province is preparing a Sovereignty Act motion over the country’s announced regulations.

What’s next: According to CNBC, 70 percent of the US grid is more than 25 years old. On top of requiring updates to the existing grid, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates its total capacity will need to increase nearly 60 percent by 2035 to meet climate goals.

Looking ahead: The transmission segment of our newsletter looks ready to blow up as the electrical grid is set for a major glow up.