Last week’s bone-chilling temperatures, brought to us courtesy of the December Polar Vortex, sent temperatures plummeting, with nearly 80 percent of the country experiencing below-freezing temperatures. As a result, many throughout the Midwest and Northeast were forced to hunker down and ride out the cold snap.
Fortunately, thanks to early indicators and a short-lived weather event, utilities were prepared and able to provide the necessary power to ensure homes and businesses stayed warm and safe. While no one experienced electric outages due to lack of access to power, vulnerabilities to our system were exposed.
For example, SoCal Gas, the energy provider and operator for Los Angeles and much of Southern California, issued an advisory urging customers to “immediately reduce gas use to get out in front of possible gas or electricity shortages” as a result of extreme cold in Southern California and throughout the Southwest.
And earlier this month, ISO New England, the organization that runs New England’s power grid, said electricity supplies should be sufficient to meet demand this winter. However, by ISO New England’s own admission, the region is becoming increasingly reliant on gas for electricity production, and as a result, some gas-fired power plants are “‘at risk of not being able to get fuel when needed’ because too much of the gas brought in via pipelines is being used for heating.” With the closure of the 1,500 megawatts coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station this coming May, the situation is likely to worsen.
These examples only serve to underscore what we’ve been saying all along, over-reliance on any one fuel source is fraught with risk. We must utilize all of our abundant resources and are hopeful that in the weeks and months ahead the new Congress and Administration will pursue energy policies that do just that.