Grid Operators, Regulators Concerned that EPA Actions Could Lead to Blackouts

Grid operators and regulators are concerned that EPA regulations could force the retirement of power plants needed to prevent blackouts, according to an article in InsideSources. The article focuses on the recent study by Quanta Technology that showed the potential impacts caused by premature shutdowns of fossil fuel power plants. The study found that shutdowns may cause PJM, the nation’s largest grid operator, to violate two key indicators of grid reliability (resource adequacy and transmission security) that could lead to shutting off power to as many as 14 million homes.

PJM is responsible for operating the electric grid in all or parts of 13 mostly eastern states and the District of Columbia. The grid operator is concerned about federal regulations that are leading to the shutdown of baseload power plants needed to provide a constant supply of electricity.

 “The current pace of entry of new generation is insufficient to keep up with expected retirements and increasing load growth, and could threaten system reliability toward the end of this decade,” PJM spokesperson Jeffrey Shields told InsideSources. “It is critical that replacement generation is actually built and operational before existing generators are forced to retire because of policy.”

The article also quotes Mark Olson with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a regulatory body tasked with reducing risks to the electric grid in the U.S. and part of Canada.

“There is a substantial amount of fossil-fired generators that have announced plans to retire within the 10-year period but have yet to formally enter PJM’s planning process for retirement. These additional retirements… could result in capacity shortfalls,” said Olson.

Olson pointed out that severe weather conditions could be especially difficult times for grid operators if they are forced to rely on less reliable options like wind and solar.

“The change in types of resources to a more variable and weather dependent resource mix could expose the PJM area to risk of insufficient energy and greater natural gas fuel vulnerability in extreme weather conditions,” said Jones.

Extreme weather events, such as winter storms, are when reliable electricity is needed most, yet the EPA is moving forward with regulations that  threaten electric reliability. When those tasked with operating the nation’s electric grid express concerns, policymakers should listen.

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