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Thursday, January 4, 2018

America’s power grid shows signs of strain amid deep freeze/Bloomberg

Today we brought you some good government policy that will spur faster installation of renewables.  Here, though, we see not so good regulation as we have failed to modernize and upgrade out grid systems, including needed sources of clean power.
Our failure to fully embrace natural gas as our bridge fuel now forces us to default to dirtier sources of fossil fuel to keep the heat and lights on during this period of extreme cold in the upper parts of the US.  That is an abysmal failure on the part of regulators and, honestly, the public.  Taking off huge blocks of coal, nuclear and oil fired plants and failing to replace those KW's has now left a huge void in our power supplies.
None of this is good for the economy or environment.  Our response should be to double down on our pace of investing in renewables, natural gas facilities, were needed as other, dirtier plants come off, micro and smart grid technology, energy storage and efficiency measures to cut overall demand and surges during peak times.
NEW YORK – America’s power grid is starting to show signs of fatigue as the nation grapples with a record-breaking cold snap.
In the Midwest, some natural gas plants are having trouble getting supplies, forcing outages and increased use of fuel oil, Dustin Smith, a spokesman for the Southwest Power Pool, said on Tuesday.
Some power plants in New England that have been burning oil are running short on fuel, according to Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for ISO New England Inc., the region’s grid operator. Restrictions governing air emissions are also a factor limiting their use.
THE COUNTRY'S power grid is starting to show strain in the face of a record breaking cold snap. / BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/STEVE HOCKSTEIN
“As oil inventories are depleted, replenishment of these fuels will be important given the uncertainty around weather and future fuel demands for the remaining two months of the winter period,” she said by email on Tuesday.
Oil, a scant contributor to the nation’s power supply in normal weather conditions, has accounted for about 30 percent of New England’s electricity in recent days after temperatures plunged below freezing. A lack of pipeline capacity has constrained gas supplies to the region in recent years, causing prices to surge during severe cold snaps.
Nonetheless, spot power on PJM Interconnection LLC’s benchmark Western hub fell 3.7 percent to $124.96 a megawatt-hour between 10 and 11 a.m. local time, according to Genscape Inc. data compiled by Bloomberg. Across the PJM grid earlier Wednesday morning, the load exceeded 136,000 megawatts, up 1.8 percent from yesterday and the highest since February 2015.
PJM has experienced no fuel supply issues over the past two days, spokeswoman Susan Buehler said by email.
Still, two power generators said on Tuesday that they’ve been able to overcome challenges posed by the weather.
American Electric Power Co. has “been able to respond to demand as needed,” despite “equipment challenges that typically accompany very cold temperatures,” Melissa McHenry, a company spokeswoman, said in an email.
“With few exceptions, our plants are running well,” David Byford, a spokesman for Houston-based Dynegy Inc. said in an interview.
Jim Polson is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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