The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a regulatory authority that oversees the health of the country’s power infrastructure has released a sobering report on the state of the American electricity network before the summer. Ongoing drought in parts of the country and heat waves “may require system operators to use emergency procedures, up to and including temporary manual load shedding”, better known as rolling breakdowns.
NERC’s Summer 2022 Reliability Assessment indicated that large swaths of the country are at high risk, with the Upper Midwest and South Central at high risk. Speaking to CBS MoneyWatch, John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment and performance analysis, said, “This is probably one of the darkest pictures we’ve painted in a while. moment.”
Which parts of the United States could face blackouts?
The most severely affected areas will be in the Upper Midwest and South Central along the Mississippi River. The latter is the result of damage to a section of a transmission line it has not yet been fixed who carries power in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. However, restoration work is should be completed by the end of June 2022.
The possibility of power outages in the Midwest, including large parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin, is due to a reduction of more than 2% in production capacity compared to summer 2021. However, Midwesterners need not panic. Last year’s report warned that nearly 40% of the US population was at risk of power outages, but most of the grid was unaffected, as reported by Bloomberg.
Almost all of the western United States at high risk for blackouts
The ongoing drought in the western United States will reduce the power generation capacity of hydroelectric dams and power generators. Drought conservation measures have been implemented in the Missouri River reservoir system due to declining water levels. This could affect the production of hydroelectric generators and impact the operations of gas, coal or nuclear power plants that draw water from the river to cool it.
A similar situation will occur in the western United States where a lower than normal snowpack means less water fill reservoirs used by hydroelectric generators. The dry conditions will also create a higher risk of wildfires, especially in late summer. Smoke from wildfires could have the effect of wiping out the sunlight used by solar panels.
Worries about capacity shortfalls in Texas ease for normal peak demand
Texas is considered to be at high risk for blackouts this summer but with the addition of wind and solar generation capacity, the anticipated reserve margins have been increased allay fears of shortages during normal peaks. But the state could be prone to widespread heat spells that could be prolonged due to the ongoing drought. A cascade of problems as a combination of power plants offline, low wind and extreme demand peak could force grid operators to impose continuous outages.
Officials overseeing the grid, however, are optimistic. Speaking to the press, they said they were confident that electricity supply would be reliable despite forecasts of record demand this summer. They cited reforms made after severe winter storms in February 2021 that claimed more than 200 lives as people struggle to heat their homes.
The weekend before officials touted the reliability of the power supply, ERCOT, the state’s main power grid operator, called on Texans to restrict the use of air conditioning and appliances after six electrical installations “tripped”.