Room, and need, for improvement
- Jan 10, 2022 2:15 pm GMT
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) end of the year reliability report painted a pretty scary picture of power reliability over the next 3 years. Specifically, the report warned of a possible capacity shortfall in MISO as soon as 2024, as opposed to in 2025 as predicted in the agency’s previous study. The culprits should surprise nobody: the retirement of numerous scalable power plants along with extreme weather and accelerating electrification. The analysis also painted an ugly near-term picture of reliability in California, where there could be up to 75,000 Mwh of unmet energy in 2024 during extreme weather events.
The three culprits I mentioned seem unavoidable at this point. Efficient, mass-scale carbon capture is a ways off and the wheels of global warming are already spinning fast and causing more and more extreme weather. Electrification seems to have finally arrived in earnest, Ford well on its way to rolling out hundreds of thousands of electric F-150s this year. The move away from coal and nuclear also seems part of our collective destiny: California is still going ahead with the retirement of Diablo despite a sophisticated and enthusiastic media push to keep it open.
So what tools do we have at our disposal to get us through the next decade, at least, until advanced storage saves the day? Energy efficiency seems like the only answer.
Luckily, many parts of the country have pretty lousy energy conservation programs, so there’s lots of low hanging fruit. Two years ago, the energy community was rocked by the Energy Efficiency Impact Report. Authored by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the report came to some disturbing conclusions regarding the state of energy efficiency in the U.S.A. There is no single statistic that underlined our nation’s regression on energy efficiency in late 2019, rather there were a number of findings that together painted a picture of significantly decelerated progress. The authors warned that a failure to get back on track will have dire consequences for the environment and the country’s economic competitiveness.
There were too many takeaways in the report to go over all of them, but a few stood out above the rest. Property Assessed Clean Energy investment, which is an instrument used to finance energy efficiency upgrades on private property, was beginning to slow after seeing a rapid rise from 2012 to 2017. On a similar note, ESCOs investments in energy efficiency had leveled off at around $5 billion. According to the report, that figure represented just a fragment of the ESCO market potential, which they estimated to be between $92 billion and $201 billion in 2016 dollars.
States and municipalities in MISO could actually learn from California’s energy conservation legislation. For example, in addition to mandating low-hanging fruit measures like smart thermostats, legislators could pass strict efficient building codes like California has done and possibly even restrict certain appliances. Last year, California residents were barred from using a wide set of energy hungry electronics: "computers with high-speed networking capability, multi-screen notebooks, notebooks with cyclical behavior, and monitors with high refresh rates”. Such rule changes would be contentious, but maybe that’s just the price that has to be paid.
The situation in California is admittedly more complicated. As I’ve already mentioned, the state already has some of the most intense energy conservation laws in the country. What’s more, the state is electrifying faster than the national average and also seems more prone to extreme weather events. Does anyone know of new energy conservation strategies that could be useful in California?
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