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Dictionary Series - Crisis

Crisis Recognized

May 6, 2024

There is so much written about crises these days that we too often lose focus on what is truly a crisis. A crisis is defined as a condition of instability or danger that results in formerly successful coping mechanisms failing us and ineffective decisions and behaviors taking their place.   

In past months, I have written about the growing problem of electric capacity shortages. In 2021, I wrote about those shortages and the resulting extended blackouts in Texas and other parts of the Midwest with Winter Storm Yuri. Last year, I wrote about the rolling blackout across the TVA and Duke service areas with the extremely cold temperatures on Christmas Eve 2022. 

Are those events “crises?” If your electricity is off with freezing temperatures, it is a crisis. It was certainly a crisis for those 140-plus poor souls that reportedly froze to death in Texas in 2021. For the rest of us just following the stories, warm and from afar, it may not yet be a crisis.

Recent articles in the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico predict that, unless something changes, electric capacity shortages may soon become a crisis in certain areas. That should not be a surprise, considering the combination of the expansion of data centers to manage more digital applications; the growth of  artificial intelligence (which demands up to 100 times more data and energy than traditional internet searches); the rise of an electric economy due to higher demand from more electric vehicles; increased electric heating; advanced manufacturing that requires more energy; and, finally, the zeal of the Biden Administration in shutting down fossil fuel-fired energy sources.

The Wall Street Journal article “The Coming Electricity Crisis,”published March 28, 2024, states Georgia Power Company recently increased its winter capacity demand forecast by 17-fold through 2031 because of expected growth of data centers, electric vehicles, and battery factories. The PJM Interconnection, which operates the electric grid across 13 Midwestern and Northeastern states, doubled its 15-year annual forecast for demand growth – an amount about twice New York City’s typical daily peak. AEP Ohio says new data centers and Intel’s $20 billion-dollar chip plant will greatly stress the electric grid, and a new Micron chip factory in New York is expected to require as much power by 2040 as the combined states of New Hampshire and Vermont.

Data centers and chip manufacturing plants will require 13% to 15% more electric capacity per year than originally included in forecasts through 2030, and potentially even more after that. Equally troubling, data centers and most advanced manufacturing require around-the-clock, year-round, reliable power that renewables cannot and will not provide. Batteries are not projected to be cost-competitive for decades, if ever. New transmission lines to better connect different regions of the country can take over a decade to permit and construct, even if siting regulations are relaxed.

Additionally, approximately 20 gigawatts (think power for 15 million homes) will be retired by 2027 and another 50 gigawatts (power for another 40 million homes) is scheduled to be retired between 2027 and 2032 across the country. PJM’s external market monitor has warned that up to 30% of its region’s installed capacity is at risk of retirement by 2030.

EPA’s Effluent Limitations Guidelines (water usage rules) will close many coal-fired plants by as early as 2028. Additionally, EPA’s proposed Greenhouse Rules will close any remaining coal-fired plants between 2028 and 2042 that do not adopt unproven carbon capture and storage technology. The Biden Administration is also promising stringent EPA restrictions this summer on natural gas-fired generation that does not incorporate clean hydrogen fuels, or carbon capture and storage technology, that are currently not available.

          FERC Commissioner, Mark Christie, warned in March 2024, “Utilities are rapidly retiring fossil fuel and nuclear plants, subtracting dispatchable resources at a pace that is not sustainable, and we can’t build dispatchable resources that can replace the resources we are shutting down.” Obama Energy Secretary, Ernie Moniz, recently predicted the utilities will ultimately have to rely more on gas, coal, and nuclear generation to support surging electric demand. He said. “We’re not going to build 100 gigawatts of new renewable generation in a few years.” TVA has already established a 5 MW limit for new or expanding loads on its electric distributors – a very low level for expanding areas like Huntsville and Nashville.  

          Even the Washington Post published an article on March 7, 2024, “Amid Explosive Demand, America is Running Out of Power” about the growing concern over available electric capacity.The article states that vast swaths of the U.S. are at risk of running short of power as electricity-hungry data centers and clean-technology factories proliferate around the country.

           President Biden and his Administration continue to impose a death march on America, prematurely closing reliable electric generation plants and throwing trillions of dollars at renewable energy resources and clean energy technology that consumes huge amounts of electricity, while continually reciting that climate change is the existential threat of our lifetime. Unfortunately, even as more rational members of the mainstream media are now recognizing, we are close to a very real crisis – we are running out of reliable, affordable electricity.

          I hope you have a good month.  

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