The Electric Grid Transition Desperately Needs a Reality Check

The New York Times Editorial Board recently published an opinion piece, “We Desperately Need a New Electrical Grid. Here’s How to Make It Happen,” that highlights the barriers to permitting and building power lines, one of the many obstacles to a swift transition to wind and solar power. As the Editorial Board points out, 47,300 gigawatt-miles of new power lines will be needed by 2035, an ambitious goal considering the U.S. is averaging only about one percent of new transmission lines per year. The larger issue is that the electric grid is under threat based on a rushed transition to renewables. When grid operators and energy experts use the words “crisis” and “catastrophic” it is time for policymakers to take notice. Read our Letter-to-the-Editor here, or below: 

“Speeding Up the Update of Our Electrical Grid” | May 14, 2023

This editorial argues that the U.S. power sector needs to be restructured to support the electrification of our economy. What we really need is a reality check as the administration pursues an unrealistic renewable energy transition timetable that threatens an already fragile grid.

Energy experts warn that fossil fuel power plants, mostly coal-fired, are closing faster than less dependable wind and solar plants and transmission lines can be built. Asked at a recent Senate Energy Committee hearing whether coal could be eliminated in the near future while maintaining grid reliability, all four commissioners from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission answered no.

Meanwhile utilities have announced plans to retire more than 40 percent of the U.S. coal fleet before 2030, with the remainder at risk of premature retirements because of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The government can spend billions incentivizing renewable energy projects — look at the Inflation Reduction Act — but it cannot buy time, and that is a commodity fast running out for reliable electricity.

Michelle Bloodworth
Arlington, Va.

The writer is president and C.E.O. of America’s Power, a national trade organization of the industries involved in producing electricity from coal.