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Looking to Different States for Lessons on Grid Operations

Todd Carney's picture
Writer Freelance

Todd Carney is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Communications. He writes on many different aspects of energy, in particular how it...

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  • May 4, 2022
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It seems like every week, there is more news concerning the “grid.” Part of this reason is that every state has their own grid, which comes with their own challenges. Through these challenges, comes a myriad of potential solutions. Reviewing these various solutions can help shed light on what the best solution is for various challenges.

Texas

In Texas, the latest news is that as the weather gets warmer with Summer on the way, there is concern that the heat may push the grid to its limit and force them offline, in a similar way that the cold forced grids offline last year.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has announced that they are working with the Public Utility Commission to ensure that the resources are dispersed to prevent any issues. They are also working with power facilities to ensure that any offline maintenance work is kept to a minimum. ERCOT claims that it has been able to project that the grid is ready to handle any increases in heat.

Hopefully TX has learned from past issues and is ready to deal with any problems that might come up. But it would be more reassuring if ERCOT announced more concrete plans for how they will prevent any problems.

Tennessee

In Tennessee, to transition away from fossil fuels, the state is aiming to have 200,000 electric vehicles on their roads by 2028. Currently there are only 18,500 vehicles. TN government has worked to provide more charging stations and other improvement to the infrastructure to make it easier to drive electric cards on TN roads.

While this change would be welcome in terms of the reduction of emissions that it would lead to, there is concern about whether TN’s grid can handle the increased use in electricity. Fortunately, officials in TN’s government believe the grid can handle it. They cite to the fact that if literally every TN vehicle was electric, it would only lead to a 30 percent increase in usage of electricity. They believe that TN is prepared to handle such a jump, and certainly something lower.

Nonetheless, TN government is continuing to work to make infrastructure improvements on the grid, so it is more prepared for an increase. In general, the government has spent $20 billion on improvements in grid infrastructure. As these improvements occur, officials within the government are checking to make sure that the grid continues to be ready for any new challenges.

California

California is also looking to make their grid run on renewable energy. They have recorded that for a moment 99.87% of the energy on the grid went to renewable energy. Even though this is just for a moment, it shows the potential of how CA can get its grid to run on renewable energy. It will take some time for the grid to be able to get to the point that the grid can solely operate with renewable energy. Additionally, it is dependent on people in CA only using renewable energy. Many people in CA would likely want to use renewable energy instead of more expensive energy sources, there is not the infrastructure nor affordable options to use renewable energy.

New England

In New England, a grid operator that serves the states in the region is trying to convince the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to let it hold off on needing to transition from fossil fuel. Many of  the politicians are angry that the grid operator is seeking this delay. These politicians believe that such delays just drag out the process and prevent real solutions. Critics are arguing that this decision ultimately hurts the consumers.

However, the grid operator has pushed back saying that the actual statistics show that this sole request for a delay will not result in actual harm to the consumers. But again the concern remains in terms of the slippery slope that this could lead to additional delays, or make the costs unsustainable.

Most of the New England states have a progressive reputation, so it is not surprising that there is a governmental push for more renewable energy for grids. Even if the grid operator is wrong in this instance, their claim represents a potential issue, that sometimes the immediate capability is not available to get where society would like in terms of grid capabilities.

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