This is a MUST READ by an economist with 7 years of experience at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It is like a great novel, with heroes and villiains, and plenty of suspense. It may leave you wanting to learn to live ‘off the grid’….
Reliable, affordable electricity is critical to our well-being and essential to modern life. But today, threats to the reliability of the power grid are numerous: cyber-attacks, weather, and accidents. Fortunately, the most significant threat is also the most avoidable—bad policy. Federal and state policies are already increasing electricity bills around the country, and the worst effects are yet to come. The federal government, and particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is promulgating regulations that will reduce the reliability of the power grid with little thought of the consequences. In fact, these policies threaten to take offline 130 gigawatts of reliable electricity generation sources—enough to meet the electricity needs of more than 105 million Americans, or one-third of the population of the entire United States. Reforming policies that threaten grid reliability should be a top priority for policymakers….
From state-level renewable energy mandates, to the wind production tax credit, to multiple EPA rules targeting coal-fired power plants, to—yes—blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, bad policy threatens to wreck America’s power grid. Fortunately, policymakers have every opportunity to address these threats. For those who want to ensure that Americans have access to reliable electricity long into the future, the time has come to push back against policies that hurt grid reliability. It is time to repeal regulations that shut down reliable sources of power and to remove massive subsidies for unreliable power sources.
Today’s electricity policy is a risky nation- wide experiment in burning the candle at both ends— something has to give. That means reliability problems and blackouts if emerging policy threats go un-checked….
Time Magazine highlights the importance of electricity to modern society in a gut- wrenching reference to the developing world:
I want you to try to imagine what it’s like to live without electricity. It’s boring, for one thing—no television, no MP3 player, no video games. And it’s lonely and disconnected as well —no computer, no Internet, no mobile phone. You can read books, of course—but at night you won’t have light, other than the flicker of firewood. And about that firewood— you or someone in your family had to gather it during the day, taking you away from more productive work or schooling, and in some parts of the world, exposing you to danger. That same firewood is used to cook dinner, throwing off smoke that can turn the air inside your home far more toxic than that breathed in an industrial city. You may lack access to vaccines and modern drugs because the nearest hospital doesn’t have regular power to keep the medicine refrigerated. You’re desperately poor—and the lack of electricity helps to ensure that you’ll stay that way.
That’s life for the 1.3 billion people around the planet who lack access to the grid.2…
Unreliable sources of electricity are a nuisance on the power grid because they simply cannot be turned on and off. In other words, grid operators cannot count on them to be there when they are needed. A major problem with attempting to use wind and solar power to meet increasing shares of power demand, for example, is their intermittent nature—the wind and the sun follow their own cycles, which are different from daily fluctuations in demand. To further complicate matters, there is currently no economically feasible way to store electricity at the utility scale.82 Therefore, electricity generated at off-peak times by wind and solar facilities cannot be used to satisfy peak demand.
It actually gets worse. Wind and solar power not only create problems when they are not available, but they also create problems when they are available because of their effect on reliable power plants. When the intermittent output of wind and solar facilities comes online, reliable plants are forced to back down their output in order to avoid a situation of oversupply. Over time, this parasitic effect can cause reliable power plants to retire early because—with the help of generous subsidies and mandates—wind and solar generation forces even the most consistent plants to reduce output, operate less efficiently, and become overall less economic.…