You’d think the power outages in Texas would trigger a soul search for the vulnerability of the American power grid. Not in today’s greenhouse of climate policy. The Biden government is already trying to halt a grid vulnerability investigation to encourage unreliable renewable energy sources.
Regulators have been warning for years that the grid is getting shakier as cheap natural gas and heavily subsidized renewables replace the steady base load for coal and nuclear power. “The country’s power grid is straining in unprecedented ways,” warned the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) in 2011.
It added, “Environmental regulations have been shown to be the greatest risk to reliability over the next one to five years.” However, the Obama Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) refused to examine how climate policy would affect reliability. Around 90 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity have been switched off since 2011, replaced by around 120 GW of wind and solar energy and 60 GW of gas power capacity.
However, renewable energies do not generate electricity around the clock like gas, nuclear power and coal. Gas systems rely on just-in-time fuel deliveries, which are not reliable in extreme weather conditions. Government-induced pipeline bottlenecks are restricting shipments to the northeast. Liberals also say Texas could have weathered the Arctic explosion better if its power grid wasn’t based almost entirely on state power.
But the Southwest Power Pool north of Texas and the Midwest’s power grid, both of which rely heavily on gas-powered wind, also had power outages last week due to declining demand, wind production, and gas shortages. California relies on gas and imports to secure its solar energy. But last summer, California couldn’t get enough power from its neighbors amid a heatwave that hit the entire western grid. Hydroelectric power from the northwest and coal from Utah couldn’t stop blackouts.
The wind lobby says Texas should have required thermal (nuclear, gas, coal) assets to be weathered to withstand single-digit temperatures. Perhaps, but the wind still performed worst during the blackout, generating electricity at 12% of its capacity compared to 76% for nuclear, 39% for coal, and 38% for gas, according to a data analysis from the Center of the American Experiment.
The ice cold reality is that US grid regulators struggle to maintain power in extreme weather. By arranging the energy saving, they were able to avoid further blackouts. But Texas shows that conservation isn’t enough as government mandates make America more reliant on electricity for everything from heating to automobiles.
Most Texans use electricity for heating. Many pipeline gas compressors are electrified due to federal emissions regulations, so the power outages restricted gas deliveries to power plants. They also turned off water pumps and treatment centers.
The Americans want to make progressives even more dependent on the power grid by banning gas connections in households and making electric cars mandatory. This is a recipe for nationwide blackouts as coal and nuclear power plants are retiring because they can’t compete with subsidized renewables. The New England network operator forecast outages in the winter of 2024-2025 in 2018, most of which were analyzed.
Partly the fault of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who blocked new gas pipelines from Pennsylvania to his state and New England. He has also ordered the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which has historically generated a third of the Big Apple’s capacity, to shut down in April this year. Renewables generate 2% of downstate electricity, so New York will be more dependent on gas, which means less for New England. The New York network operator recently warned of “resource gaps” and “energy bottlenecks”.
Finally, in 2018, FERC began investigating these grid stability challenges. But its new Democratic chairman, Richard Glick, closed the investigation last week. He pointed to the lack of regulatory action, but the real reason is that grid stability is at odds with the Biden climate change agenda.
Mr. Glick also ordered a review of the FERC gas pipeline to examine the impact on “environmental justice communities” such as Indians and minorities and “ways the Commission can mitigate these effects”. He asked for a public comment on a compressor station in Weymouth, Massachusetts that has increased gas flow to New England.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and the climate lobby want the compressor to shut down to keep more gas in the ground, regardless of whether the resulting blackouts and price spikes hurt low-income communities. “Aside from being illegal, the Order is bad policy,” said Republican Commissioner James Danly dissenting, adding that “it undermines legal certainty and challenges the authority of the commission, which it does not have.”
When the blackouts hit, don’t say the Americans were not warned.
Climate proponents insist it wasn’t the wind. Photo: ZUMA Press
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