Network operators warn of power shortages amid switching to renewables: report

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Electricity operators across the country are warning of the potential for power outages as companies try to switch to green energy sources.

“I’m worried about that,” MISO CEO John Bear told the Wall Street Journal in a report Sunday. “As we move forward, we need to know that when you install a solar panel or wind turbine, it’s not the same as a heat resource.”

Minister of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

Minister of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
(AP Photo / Evan Vucci, file)


Extreme heat and forest fires over the summer could lead to energy shortages in California, the state network operator told the WSJ. The Midwest could face similar problems with the MISO warning of a lack of capacity that could lead to downtime.

The problem is on the rise nationwide as many traditional and nuclear power plants retire to make room for renewables, but power plants are shutting down faster than renewable energy and battery storage can keep up.

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, California.

Wind turbines in Palm Springs, California.
(2013 Getty Images)

Wind farms and solar farms are among the most popular forms of renewable energy production, but their lack of ability to generate energy 24/7 means they have to store some of their energy in batteries for later use. But the development of better battery storage is underway, with operators fearing it is not happening fast enough to replace retreating plants.

The risk of downtime has increased this summer, with supply chain problems and slowing inflation so developers can procure the components needed to build renewable energy farms.


  Space Coast Next Generation Solar Center, on Merritt Island, Florida.

Space Coast Next Generation Solar Center, on Merritt Island, Florida.

“Every market around the world is trying to deal with the same problem,” Brad Jones, interim executive director of the Texas Electrical Reliability Council, told the WSJ. “We are all trying to find ways to make the most of our renewable resources … and at the same time ensure that we have enough dispatch generations to manage reliability.”

But others have argued for slowing down the taking of traditional plants offline.

“We need to make sure we have enough new resources in place and operational before we release some of these retirements,” Mark Rothleder, chief operating officer of California’s independent system operator, told WSJ. “Otherwise, we are potentially at risk of not having enough capacity.”

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