Michael Shellenberger Explains to Senate Committee Why Baseload Sources Are Essential for Grid Reliability
- Mar 14, 2021 5:37 pm GMT
Environmental activist Michael Shellenberger testified Thursday before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at a hearing on the reliability of America's electrical grid.
"In 2012, 2017, and 2021 the National Academies of Science and Engineering published three separate reports on threats to the grid, resilience, and the future of electricity. 1 In its 2017 report, the Academies warned that U.S. electrical grids were increasingly 'complex and vulnerable.'
"Meanwhile, many experts see in recent trends an inevitable transition away from coal and nuclear power plants, designed to function as baseload capacity, toward variable renewable energy sources with just-in-time natural gas back-up...But events in mid-February throughout the center of the country, including Texas, and last summer in California, suggest that attempting to replace nuclear plants with variable renewable energy sources could make electricity grids less resilient.
"Nuclear plants are among the most reliable components of America’s power grids. Nuclear plants operate as a national fleet at 94 percent annual capacity factor, thanks to tightly choreographed refueling operations that barely interrupt eighteen-month continuous uptime at most facilities. The hardening required of nuclear plants first in response to 9/11 and then in response to the loss of Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 has further ensured their contribution to reliability, resiliency, and affordability.
Part of the reason for inadequate in-state electricity supply in California last August was that state regulators had closed in-state baseload power plants. 'People wonder how we made it through the heat wave of 2006,' said the CEO of California’s grid operator, CAISO, at the time. 'The answer is that there was a lot more generating capacity in 2006 than in 2020.... We had San Onofre [nuclear plant] of 2,200 megawatts, and a number of other plants, totaling thousands of megawatts not there today.'
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