…. is the title of my recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner, here’s a shortened version:
Think the rest of the country will avoid electricity shortages of the kind that have led to rolling blackouts recently in California? Don’t bet on it. Not enough baseload power from fossil fuel and nuclear plants and an increasing reliance on intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar across the country are likely to keep power failures in the national spotlight for years to come.
The trouble is that the U.S. electricity system is experiencing a period of wrenching disruption and sustained stress — the product of too many power plants shutting down and not enough new generating capacity being brought online to replace them. Every day brings news of new coal plant retirements. Some nuclear plants are barely hanging on. From a reliability standpoint, there’s nothing structurally wrong with these plants. There’s something seriously wrong with the markets in which they are operating, which do not value baseload capacity from natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants that can be dispatched when needed.
In California, wind and solar power were unrealistically expected to fill the supply gap, with natural gas plants as a backup. But that didn’t happen as planned. With the state and much of the West sweltering in an oppressive heat wave, the demand for electricity in California hit new records, more than 47,000 megawatts.
The California Independent System Operator (ISO) is responsible for keeping the lights on and the air conditioners humming while avoiding any blackouts. But as the electricity system approached its generating capacity, there wasn’t enough backup power from natural gas nor imported power from neighboring states such as Arizona and Nevada that are also seeing record demand. To prevent the system’s collapse from spreading throughout the West, the ISO ordered utilities to institute blackouts. The loss of power for an hour or two might seem like an inconvenience, but not for elderly people confined to their homes or those with medicines requiring refrigeration. Blackouts could become a growing problem in the months and years ahead, especially when no one is quite sure if the lights and air conditioning will stay on.
California’s predicament was hardly unforeseen, nor is it exceptional. The shift away from baseload power generated from natural gas, coal, and nuclear, happening across the country, is undermining the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s electricity system. It’s putting dependable electric power at risk because solar or wind energy can’t be clicked up or down. Whenever solar and wind power have come to provide a sizable share of the power (in California, it’s now more than 30%), reliability challenges have followed. But in the green fantasy world, environmentalists somehow think that a system built on solar panels and windmills could magically supply 80% of the demand for electricity.
What’s happening with blackouts and price volatility shows that electricity systems are increasingly leaning too heavily on intermittent renewables (windmills and solar panels) rather than on fossil fuel and nuclear plants. Before it’s too late, green policymakers and operators of the nation’s electricity system need to scale back politically-driven plans for increasing reliance on solar and wind energy and properly value baseload power from coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants that are the very foundation of our nation’s electric power.
MP: The graph above shows the Energy Information Administration’s forecast for the energy shares of US energy consumption out to 2050. Note that despite all of the hype, hope, cheerleading, fuel standards, portfolio standards, and taxpayer subsidies for windmills and solar panels, America’s energy future will still rely primarily on fossil fuels to power our vehicles, heat and light our homes, and fuel the US economy. In other words, America’s energy future will look a lot like it does today with fossil fuels providing American consumers and businesses with low-cost, dependable, and reliable energy for more than three-quarters of our energy needs.