US electric grid in jeopardy


“Imagine, if you will, New York City plunged into darkness. It wouldn’t be an inconvenience; it would be deadly. People would be trapped, food would spoil, and supply chains would collapse. The death toll would be incalculable,” notes David Strom at Hot Air. “It is the stuff of dystopian fiction. Except that it is a serious possibility….the grid is very fragile and there are supply constraints that could easily lead to a collapse of parts of the grid….there is a serious and growing shortage of spare transformers… supply chain issues have extended the time from ordering a transformer to its delivery from a few weeks to as much as a year.”

As Transformers Magazine notes,

Power companies have issued warnings about dangerous transformer shortages in the USA.

US power companies are raising the alarm about a potential energy crisis. Transformers are crucial to the grid because they change the voltage of electricity to make it usable. However, energy trade groups warn that the nation can’t count on aging transformers to keep the power on. Also, if transformers blow during storms, it could take more than a year for power companies to get new ones due to the supply chain shortage. ERMCO estimates that, in case a storm blows enough transformers in a city with no reserves, it could take several weeks to bring the lights back on.

Mike Partin, president and CEO of the Sequatchie Valley Electric Cooperative, says there is a supply chain problem putting USA at risk because it could take 52 to 56 weeks to get new transformers instead of the typical 4-week turnaround from manufacturers.

Even apart from this problem, the electric grid is in serious jeopardy, notes Strom. “Even without the forced electrification of everything being pushed by the Biden Administration, the forced transition of our electric supply to net zero greenhouse gas production, and the introduction of less reliable power generation the basic infrastructure that keeps the lights on is aged and vulnerable to shock. And if that shock comes in the form of a shortage of transformers the likelihood that the power would get restored quickly is far too low for comfort. Now add in the Biden Administration variables–a massive expansion of everything electric, reduced reliability of power generation, and new standards for transformers to increase efficiency and you may be facing a perfect storm.”

As Transformers Magazine observes, “As lead times on new transformers grow longer, utilities are also worried about the nation’s ability to make new ones because transformer cores use a specific type of steel called grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES). Most GOES manufacturers are outside of USA.”

But the Biden administration has ignored this problem. Energy Secretary Granholm is instead “dead set on electrifying even the military,” even though it would require a dramatic increase in the number of transformers. But to her,

Practical considerations…matter not in the least, because in her world everything runs on fairy dust and unicorn farts.

She is focused on a future that may never be and ignores the present where interruptions in basic services are truly life and death. Forget for the moment elevators, lights, information technology, manufacturing, and the myriad other things that depend on reliable electricity; without refrigeration being available food supplies will plummet rapidly in any major urban area. And if the grid goes down in winter freezing to death would be on the table.

Americans are so used to basic things working consistently that we ignore them; policymakers often pursue pie-in-the-sky projects without ensuring that the things that make modern life possible simply work.

This is Bidenomics in a nutshell: demand something be done (electrify everything) and stand in the way of anything getting done. Throw money at the people you like and call it a day. Collapse follows, but your friends get rich.

As old power plants close, America’s power grid has become increasingly unreliable, according the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. faces the risk of of blackouts in the summer and during winter cold waves. Yet, President Biden has called for getting rid of coal plants, saying, “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America.” That could cause blackouts that kill hundreds or even thousands of people, as energy runs short. Blackouts already killed 200 people in 2021, as freezing people were left without power.

“Large swaths of North America may face blackouts and other energy emergencies during bouts of extreme cold this winter,” according to regulators, Bloomberg News reported last year:

The electric grids at most risk of supply shortfalls are in Texas, the central US system stretching from the Great Lakes to Louisiana, New England and the Carolinas, the North American Electric Reliability Council said in its seasonal assessment Thursday. Severe weather may stress grids by causing demand to soar while supplies of natural gas, coal and back-up fuel oil are all tight, leaving little room for error, according to the report.

“The trend is we see more areas at risk, we see more retirements of critical generation, fuel challenges and we are doing everything we can,” John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment, said during a media briefing. “These challenges don’t kind of appear out of nowhere.”

NERC’s warning touches at least a quarter of Americans, who are poised to see already high utility bills soar even more this winter….“As the demand for electricity risks outpacing the available supply during peak winter conditions, consumers face an inconceivable but real threat of rolling blackouts,” Jim Matheson, chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, said in an emailed statement. “It doesn’t have to be this way. But absent a shift in state and federal energy policy, this is a reality we will face for years to come.”

The central US grid managed by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator has tight power supplies after a large number of generators shut last winter and its Gulf Coast plants haven’t done enough to protect against cold weather, NERC said.

The problem is aggravated by the shutting down of coal and nuclear plants that provide badly needed power. As old power plants close, America’s power grid has become increasingly unreliable, according the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. faces the risk of of blackouts in the summer and during winter cold waves.

Yet, on November 4, President Biden called for getting rid of coal plants, saying, “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America.” That could cause blackouts that kill hundreds of people. Blackouts already killed 200 people in 2021, as freezing people were left without power. Yet, “there are 40 coal-fired power plants scheduled to be taken offline in the name of fighting climate change. No replacement sources for all of that juice have been proposed, to say nothing of having them come online,” notes Hot Air.

Closing coal-fired power plants could also exacerbate job losses in the energy sector. As Fox News notes, “A Department of Energy report published this summer showed massive job losses in the fuel industry following Biden’s presidential campaign where he pledged to lead the country away from fossil fuels.”

The Midwest is especially at risk of blackouts, because retirement of older plants has caused a decrease in electricity-generating capacity, even as the population continues to grow.

Biden has suggested that we could just use “wind and solar power” when coal plants close. But that is not a solution, because wind and solar energy are at the mercy of the weather, and are growing too slowly to immediately replace coal. As the liberal Brookings Institution notes, wind and solar projects can take over a decade to complete:

Most wind energy projects in the pipeline are stuck in the permitting phase, with just 21% of planned projects currently under construction…..Each of the federal permits [required] may take months or years to be approved. … The dizzying array of permits and other regulatory obstacles to renewable energy projects can create extremely long delays. Reports of 10-year or longer timelines for transmission lines are not uncommon, and both solar and wind projects face long permitting delays.

Moreover, as a leading German newspaper notes, “Sometimes the wind simply doesn’t blow, meaning the rotors remain idle and no power can be generated. A reliable power grid therefore requires additional forms of energy production and storage.”

As Forbes notes,

Solar and wind require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining….And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California, and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.

In addition to shutting down many coal plants, progressives have also shut some nuclear plants. That is unfortunate, because it is hard to beat nuclear power, from an environmental standpoint. It produces no air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions (just harmless steam). It results in fewer deaths per unit of energy produced than virtually all other forms of energy. And unlike wind or solar power, nuclear plants produce a constant, reliable flow of electricity regardless of whether the weather changes.

As Michael Shellenberger points out, “wind turbines…kill more people than nuclear plants.” Moreover, “solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, and create over 200 times more waste.” As Yale University’s Steve Novella notes, “Nuclear waste can be dealt with, and the newer reactors produce less waste, and can even theoretically burn reprocessed waste from older plants.

Last month, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) vetoed a bill that would have lifted Illinois’ moratorium on new nuclear power plants. This may harm the environment, because studies show that nuclear power is best for the environment. The bill Pritzker vetoed, SB76, passed the Illinois legislature with bipartisan support.

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