A MESSAGE FROM YOUR GENERAL MANAGER/CEO
This month, I want to share the perspective of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) on the future of our national power grid. Of the many services provided by NRECA, being our voice in Washington, D.C. is the most powerful. As you can see from the following two articles, NRECA is working to keep electricity safe, reliable and affordable at the national level. For more information on NRECA, visit www.electric.coop. As always, I am here to answer any questions at 979-543-6271.
NERC Report: Pace of Industry Change Is ‘Greatest Challenge to Reliability’
Aggressive government climate-related infrastructure policies, more extreme weather and growing consumer demand for lower-emission energy are quickly changing the resource mix of the bulk power system and elevating reliability risks, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
“Managing this pace of change presents the greatest challenge to reliability,” NERC said in its long-term reliability assessment released Dec. 17.
NERC identified significant reliability risks associated with more intermittent and distributed energy resources and inverter-based resources such as wind, solar and battery storage systems.
The report finds most regions are projected to have sufficient capacity to meet annual peak demand under normal weather conditions, but potential near-term capacity shortfalls may be caused by the retirement of coal-based generation facilities with no ready replacement. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator region, it said, could lose 13 gigawatts of resource capacity from plant retirements between 2021 and 2024.
“Capacity-based estimates, however, can give a false indication of resource adequacy. Energy risks emerge when variable energy resources (VER) like wind and solar are not supported by flexible resources that include sufficient dispatchable, fuel-assured, and weatherized generation,” the electric reliability organization said.
NERC also projected that increased variable resources this year will raise the risk of energy shortfalls, specifically 23 hours of load loss in the Northwest, and up to 10 hours of load loss in the California-Mexico region.
“Sufficient flexible resources are needed to support increasing levels of variable generation uncertainty.”
NERC notes that while natural gas generation could help sustain reliability, it will require better coordination between suppliers and grid operators.
“The natural gas system was not built or operated with electric reliability as the first concern,” the report states. “Electric grid planners must understand natural gas system vulnerabilities to assess contingencies and plan for grid reliability.”
Other key findings and recommendations include:
- An increase in stronger storms is “a core condition” for resource planning for reliability, which requires that capacity and its fuel must be “assured even in extreme weather.”
- To integrate IBRs (inverter-based resources), owners and operators must coordinate to accurately account for these new resources.
- DER (distributed energy resource) aggregators will be increasingly important to the bulk power system in the coming years, and their participation in wholesale markets should be considered for potential impacts to reliability and mitigating risks.
NERC is charged with the security of the bulk power system and sets and enforces reliability standards. The organization also assesses trends, needs and remedies for grid reliability. It operates under the supervision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
- Cathy Cash, NRECA Staff Writer
NRECA CEO to Congress: Electricity Transition Efforts Must Be Realistic
Achieving 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2035 is an overly ambitious goal that could threaten grid reliability and requires technology that is not yet available, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson told a Senate panel Wednesday.
The Biden administration has set a goal of a carbon-free electric sector by 2035.
“As our nation works to strengthen energy security and reliability while also protecting the environment, we must realize that it is not an all-or-nothing choice,” Matheson testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “We can address these priorities—but it requires technology and time beyond what is currently available and what many have called for.”
Matheson said lawmakers should focus on three key points as they consider the nation’s energy future:
A resilient and reliable electric grid that affordably keeps the lights on is the cornerstone of American energy security and the national economy.
The ongoing energy transition must recognize the need for time and technology and be inclusive of all energy sources to maintain reliability and affordability.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill made important investments to support an energy transition, but additional actions on tax credits, permit streamlining and coordination on electrification will be required to meet future energy needs.
Matheson urged senators to oppose efforts to “mandate energy sector transformations over unreasonable or unrealistic timelines and that fail to account for regional differences in energy resource availability or the potential for stranded assets.”
He pointed to a recent long-term reliability assessment by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. warning of the risks of energy shortfalls during extreme weather if too much baseload generation is retired prematurely.
“Such policies would have significant impacts on the reliability and security of the electric grid and could have an undue economic impact on co-op consumer-members, particularly as additional costs must be incurred for replacement generation,” he said at a hearing focused on American energy security and investments in clean energy
Electric cooperatives are accelerating energy innovations and investments in clean energy to reduce carbon emissions, Matheson said. Co-ops lowered their CO2 emissions by 23% between 2005 and 2020—the equivalent of taking nearly 9 million cars off the road.
“As electric co-ops continue to reduce CO2 and other emissions, it is critical that policymakers work with industry in a constructive manner that achieves these objectives while maintaining the exceptional reliability and affordability that American families and businesses expect and deserve,” Matheson said.
The electric sector is poised to play a major role in reducing carbon emissions through increased electrification of the transportation, agricultural and industrial sectors, he said.
“Electrifying other sectors of the economy, however, will require a three-fold expansion of the transmission grid and up to 170% more electricity supply by 2050, according to the National Academies of Sciences,” Matheson testified.
“The increasing role of electrification will place more demands on the electric grid and generation portfolio, and measures to enhance grid reliability are essential to maximize emission reductions and keep costs affordable.”
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last November “included significant opportunities for electric co-ops and the communities they serve through programs supporting clean energy deployment, grid resiliency and modernization, physical and cybersecurity, electric vehicles, and rural broadband,” Matheson said.
But he said more must be done to provide tax incentives, streamline the permitting process and coordinate electrification efforts.
“Policymakers must continue to balance realism with aspiration while recognizing that any energy transition will require additional time and technology and must be inclusive of all energy sources to maintain the reliability and affordability that is the cornerstone of American energy security.”
- Erin Kelly, NRECA Staff Writer