Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track global extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: A New Summer Problem… The U.S. Grids Gridlock
Dear Diary. As if the United States didn’t have enough inflationary problems, I’m just learning that our much-needed energy transition will be quite painful for consumers, and I’m not writing about the high price of gasoline. Evidently, required regulatory studies for bringing renewable sources online will spike electricity prices over what could be a very hot summer…to the tune of more than 200%.
For many more details on this new problem, here is an article written by Peter Sinclair:
with Peter Sinclair
Grid Girds for Summer Gridlock
June 2, 2022
Massive transmission backlogs have become a serious impediment to expanding clean energy and providing customers with reliable and low-cost electricity. Solutions are hard to come by, however. Over the past decade, the scale of the solar, wind and energy-storage projects being planned and built around the country has boomed. But the methods grid operators and utilities use to assess the impacts and costs of connecting these projects to the grid haven’t kept up.
Grid-impact studies conducted by the major regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, which manage the high-voltage grids providing electricity to about two-thirds of the American population, have become increasingly complicated. These studies determine how much developers will have to pay for upgrades to allow their projects to interconnect to the grid and deliver power.
“Studies are taking four or five years in some cases,” FERC Commissioner Willie Phillips said at this month’s meeting between FERC and members of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). “This is simply untenable.”
In the Midwest, early coal plant retirements and a lack of replacement power threaten to create a precarious gap between supply and demand as temperatures rise going into June. And aging coal and gas-fired plants across the West risk being forced to reduce their output or shut down entirely as extreme heat and drought conditions threaten their access to water and disrupt required maintenance.
Meanwhile, natural gas prices are expected to skyrocket. Coupled with high demand for power as temperatures spike, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission predicts electricity prices could rise by as much as 233 percent over last summer’s power prices.
Regulators know these issues are leading to an escalation in the risk of widespread and expensive outages but are divided about how to ensure systems in these regions can reliably provide power this summer and going forward.
“Everybody’s got a good sense of where we want to go in terms of decarbonizing the fleet, and we are moving in that direction,” said John Bear, CEO of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which stretches from Minnesota to Louisiana. “Unfortunately we’re moving in that direction quite quickly and I’m worried about the transition.”
The Midwest region that he oversees faces the highest risk of reliability issues this summer, according to a recent report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.
While waiting for new technologies such as battery storage to become commercially available, the system continues to add intermittent renewable generation to its fleet, but it is retiring existing fossil fuel units more quickly, Bear said during a press briefing earlier this month hosted by the U.S. Energy Association.
This summer’s anticipated tight grid conditions are just the tip of the iceberg as weather grows increasingly unpredictable and the U.S. aims to electrify more high-emitting sectors of the economy — eventually leading to even more demand on the aging power system. Proving the grid can handle periods of high stress in the immediate term is essential to achieving the Biden administration’s longer goal of decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 and the economy by 2050 — and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change that will put further stress on the power system.
The next few years are a crucial bottleneck for clean energy. People see new wind turbines and solar farms going up, and rightly or wrongly, if there are hiccups in the grid, a lot of folks, with a big push from bad actors in the media, could jump to the “green new deal doesn’t work”.
Massive analysis in Canary Media, short excerpts above and below, gives an idea of the magnitude of the problem. I’ll be re-reading this for days to understand – recommended.
Canary Media again:
Just how clogged up U.S. grids have become is laid out in an April report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Between 2015 and 2021, energy projects seeking to interconnect to the transmission grids of the country’s seven major grid operators and 35largest utilities have seen average wait times grow from about one and a half years to more than three and a half. In the past decade, only about 23 percent of all projects in interconnection queues have ultimately been able to plug into the grid and start operations.
One reason is the sheer number of projects in line. As of last year, a massive 1,300 gigawatts’ worth of solar, wind and battery projects were awaiting interconnection — technically enough to supply about 80 percent of the country’s electricity demand. This chart from the American Clean Power Association trade group lays out the current mix of resources queued up in different parts of the country.
That in itself is a problem, FERC Commissioner Mark Christie said during the meeting. Simply put, the amount of electricity seeking grid interconnection far exceeds demand across the country.
That doesn’t mean that energy developers actually intend to build this many projects, he emphasized. Instead, many projects in the queue are just “paper-holders,” or speculative claims on the transmission grid’s capacity, rather than projects “that have the financial wherewithal and the business plan to actually get built,” Christie said.
This surplus of speculative interconnection requests is both a response to and a cause of worsening interconnection delays, FERC’s Phillips said. Because it can take years between making an interconnection request and having it approved, energy developers feel they must submit multiple requests for projects they may not even have customers for yet. In other words, “they do this to snag a spot in line,” he said.
They also do it to figure out where they can afford to interconnect. As transmission grid buildouts have slowed over the past decade, project developers have been forced to cover more and more of the grid investments needed to allow new projects to come online.
FERC Chair Richard Glick said, “increasingly, transmission development is being done through the network upgrade process” — that is, by charging grid upgrades to interconnecting projects — “rather than through the traditional planning process.” Over the past five years, these interconnection upgrade costs have grown from about 10 percent of project costs to between 50 to 100 percent of the cost of actually building the wind or solar farms themselves, according to a 2021 analysis from consultancy Grid Strategies.
Project developers may not know how high those costs will be until years into the process — and more and more frequently, the upgrade costs that are ultimately levied can end up being “a deal-killer,” said Bryn Baker, senior director for policy innovation at the Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA) trade group.
At other times, lack of capacity can prevent new projects from even being considered in large portions of the grid. A CEBA member’s recent request for proposals to build a 100-megawatt wind farm in the northern region of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s territory received no submissions” because transmission congestion was preventing any developers from considering the area,” Baker said.
To avoid the risk of deal-killing upgrade costs, “generators are submitting multiple interconnection requests as a form of price discovery,” Phillips said, further clogging up interconnection queues. Then they withdraw projects that cost too much, forcing grid operators to re-study the projects that remain — as well as those that have been added to the queue in the intervening time — to see how they’ll affect the grid and what potential upgrades might be needed as a consequence.
This cascading set of interconnection requests and withdrawals, as well as the lengthy and complex studies required with each change in the mix of projects that remain in queues, has grown so overwhelming that some grid operators are seeking to halt the process until they can sort out their existing backlogs. Earlier this year, mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM proposed delaying new projects from entering its interconnection queue until 2025 in order to expedite about 1,200 projects still awaiting assessment.
Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:
Here is some May 2022 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Friday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”