North American electric is failing under electrification trend demands and growth pressure
The grid is not capable to support demands without major investments!
Looming RISKS! Energy Poverty!
If we do not slow down on renewable conversation and autonomous vehicles we are in for a huge surprise!
Our planet may not be able to support an exploding population and the existing North American (Canada, USA and Mexico) electric distribution grid cannot support the current and future demand without major negative impacts to society!
Our energy systems are pushed to their limits, by varying demands, automation, robotics, weather changes, electrification and general industrial and home demands. Adding to the complexity of supply and demands coal and gas power generation sources are simultaneously being taken offline, the impact is felt at much greater scale without segmented distribution power sources. This is forcing us to effectively lower our reliability on fewer large power sources, therefore reducing the number of towns and people affected when one or more of these go offline.
The current cumulative demand effects of:
Ü Electric Vehicles, Automation and Autonomous vehicles
Ü Gas to Renewables.
Ü High-power consumption of technology such as BC, AI, ML, RPA, Cloud and Quantum and Bitcoin computing
Ü Manufacturing and other industrial demands
Ü Home demands
Ü Shale and mining explosion demands on our energy grid are beyond it current capacity and capabilities.
Regulators, power producers, grid operators and other stakeholders across North America are concurrently experiencing the grid vulnerability that, left unaddressed, will impact load management and increase upgrade costs, further weakening an already fragile grid resilience and reliability. This raises the potential for more frequent and severe, power cuts, blackouts, brownouts, and other symptoms of power system instability.
Industry already decimated by the pandemic, cannot afford an avoidable impact and increase cost, it is very bad for business. Without immediate and concerted action to modernize the electric grid — the obligatory maintenance deferrals, uncertain demand forecasts, supply chain disruptions — may prove disastrous to consumers in the long-term as they exacerbate this long-standing, systemic deficiency. Consumers, generators and distributors all see it as an imperative for all utilities and partners players in the electric power sector consider all opportunities for grid stability enhancement and modernization
The need to modernize the US electric grid is now!
The distribution and transmission grid cannot handle peak demand during winter cold, natural environmental events, man made wildfires or summer heat!
According to Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Reliability and resilience – even in the face of extreme events – is achieved through diversity, redundancy, and modularization. Co-locating energy supply with demand through microgrids and other DERs [distributed energy resources] is an important step in preventing widespread crises like this in the future.
The blame for the massive power outages as the polar vortex cold snap reached Texas and power outages linger on, the argument is that renewables had a huge part to play in the crisis, with natural gas and coal the indirect culprits due to their reduced availability resulting in infrastructure freezing and diverting supplies for heating purposes.
What politicians are ignoring is the real problem that not only lies in Texas but plagues the North American grid and everywhere where energy demand is growing, the aging grid is not longer reliable, resilient and have the capacity to meet peak demands due to weather or other unforeseen events.
According to some estimates. The North American Grid is the largest interconnected network on Earth. Over 500,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and 6.8 million miles of local distribution lines, linking thousands of generating plants, facilities and micro grids to factories, homes and businesses. This is a gigantic integrated network that feed electricity to every corner of the continent and it is becoming more and more diversified with the introduction of alternate energy generation sources.
Natural gas power generation played a huge part and reason for the power outages in Texas, it was certainly not the availability of gas that caused the blackouts in California during a heatwave. Grid reliability has come to the fore because the decarbonization of electricity generation is not all fun, games, and a serious matter while, zero-emission power generation and distribution is not realistic at this time.
The grid, in its current condition (supply, generation, demand) cannot support the massive shift to low-carbon power generation.
Several disasters impacted the power and utilities industry in 2020, bringing disaster preparedness and readiness to the forefront. Going into 2021, utilities should deploy and integration of digital tools and industrial technologies to address the “Multidemic”  impacts of COVID-19, Social disruptions, Infrastructure collapse, Cybersecurity and Extreme weather events such as wildfires, heat and cold snaps. As grid operators found that while cold snaps can pose challenges in some specific areas, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic combined with other events are causing increased uncertainty in electricity demand projections and presents multiple levels of risks across they systems. The biggest risks after power availability and the cost to consumers, we are already experiencing energy poverty at various levels and locations across North America.
The events in Texas and California and other regions across north America during unforeseen events, wildfire, cold snaps, summer heat, droughts etc. demonstrate is the unreliability and gaps of having highly-centralized power systems and the true value of resilience and flexibility in our energy grids, a value that is going to become even more vital as we continue to transition to renewable energy and electrification. In Texas, the state’s fleet of wind farms lost up to 4.5 gigawatts of capacity at times, as many turbines stopped working in cold and icy conditions. Experts said, an electric grid optimized to deliver huge quantities of power on the hottest days of the year was caught unprepared when temperatures plummeted freezing up gas plants and wind turbines. So much for an affordable and secure reliable power supply.
Wind turbines can be equipped with heaters and other devices so that they can operate in icy conditions — as is often done in the upper Midwest, where cold weather is more common. Gas plants can be built to store oil on-site and switch over to burning the fuel if needed, as is often done in the Northeast, where natural gas shortages are common. Grid regulators can design markets that pay extra to keep a larger fleet of backup power plants in reserve in case of emergencies, as is done in the Mid-Atlantic.
But these solutions all cost money, and grid operators are often wary of forcing consumers to pay extra for safeguards. All these safeguards tell me that the systems to transition to renewables and lower carbon emissions are a bunch of malarky, that is only enabled to support the UN mandate with little or no regard for driving up the costs to consumers (for food, clothing, shelter, heat and healthcare), impacting the most vulnerable population in North America.
Based on my estimation the future of energy as we transition to renewables and upgrade the grid to mitigate risks will drive up to 70% of the population into energy poverty! I guess is back to nature and wood fuel for heat and cooking, bring back the lumberjack trade. People, let’s not forget who we are serving and why we exist!
All over the country, utilities and grid operators are managing variables, heat waves, floods, water shortages and other calamities, all of which could create various levels of risks to the nation’s electricity systems. Adding the task of building in grid and supply resilience is becoming increasingly urgent. Many socialist leaning politicians are promoting electric cars and electric heating as a way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But as more of the nation’s economy depends on reliable flows of electricity, the cost of blackouts will become ever more dire. Adapting to these risks could carry a hefty price tag again to support my point of a large percentage of the population will be driven to energy poverty in time to come.
On the other hand, it appears that decentralizing the grid could go quite a long way towards reducing risks and ensuring a stable power supply. Of course, it will also cost money. Today, threats to the reliability of the power grid are numerous: cyber-attacks, weather, social disruptions and accidents. Fortunately, most of these threats are also the most avoidable—Siloed regulations and bad policies at all levels of government is adding to the grid management complexities and introducing unnecessary risks at the cost to the consumer. Federal and state policies are already increasing electricity bills around the country, and the worst effects are yet to come.
But with the right incentives, investment might be more palpable for consumers than higher electricity bills with added carbon taxes because utilities are centrally strengthening the grid. In any case, one thing is clear, and it is that grids, as they are at the moment, will not be able to cope successfully with the changes in the energy needs as most on-peak demand is served by natural-gas-fired generation, therefore impacts to fuel supplies can result in energy emergencies on the Bulk Power Systems with a potential for load impacts.
Grid operators say they are taking steps to address the risks, and keeping an eye on maintaining baseload plants for system reliability. As the system transitions to wind and solar generation, the recent environmental events highlight that resource and energy adequacy must be assured and changes to the generation input mix introduces greater risks, variability, and adding complexities to long term planning.
Overall, the North American power system has evolved with geographically based grid architecture structures, including five blocks of internally-synchronous interconnected regions known as “interconnections”: Western, Eastern, Texas, Quebec, and Mexican interconnections. Trade takes place between interconnections via inter-tie stations
(NERC) Regulatory Policy: As with any sector that requires infrastructure development, the policy and regulatory framework is critical to the pace of development. While regulatory policy naturally varies regionally to reflect the specific priorities of different jurisdictions (i.e., economic development, environmental protection, sustainable development, social engagement), it can also lead to significant inefficiencies in permitting, siting, licensing, as well as tax, tariff, and incentives policies that reduce the possibilities of integration. The private sector has complained in all countries that permitting/siting/licensing requirements are slow, costly, and onerous, though some industries speak more positively of their experience complying with Canadian cross-border regulations.
The hurdles to overcome can be grouped roughly into categories: system complexity, regulatory policy, and social/political considerations.
According tot he North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Grid failures are not an act of god or an attack by a foe, but rather the issue of a lack of maintenance and infrastructure within the grid itself. We have seen these kinds of failures in systems that are not well maintained and have long stretches of land to cover.
In the event of a power GRID outage both gas and electric cars would run only as long as their power held out. All gas pumps stop in a power outage.
If the power grid goes down, water and natural gas will fail soon thereafter, so planning is critical. The power grid is one of those things we take for granted, but it's time to acknowledge that it's getting older, reaching capacity and under attack. ... Power outages are over 2.5 times more likely than they were in 1984
The Continental U.S. power transmission grid consists of about 300,000 km (186,411 mi) of lines operated by approximately 500 companies. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) oversees all of them. See the problem here? This Is just in the US – add Canada and Mexico and it issue get compounded by jurisdictional regulations
FERC enables competition through regulation. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a landmark ruling in September 2020 that could help consolidate the competitive landscape for the energy industry in 2021. By leveling the playing field for DER to participate in a wholesale capacity, energy, and ancillary services markets, Order 2222 could help spur innovative technologies and aggregations of rooftop solar arrays, EVs, and smart building devices. In another move that may further consolidate the competitive landscape in favor of clean energy, FERC recently took a position of being open to carbon pricing.
Transmission outages caused by failed protection system equipment, substation equipment or human error all show a decreasing trend for the last five years. These three areas have historically been major causes of transmission outages. Each has trended downward for the last five years; however, these areas remain major contributors to transmission outage severity and will remain areas of focus.
Frequency response performance trends, while remaining acceptable, are showing varied results by interconnection. Individual Interconnection performance is separated into performance during the arresting period and during the stabilizing period. Three of the four Interconnections trended “improving” during the arresting period, and two of the four trended “improving” during the stabilizing period. No Interconnection experienced frequency response performance below its interconnection frequency response obligation.
Changes in the way we produce, store, manage, and use electricity are transforming the way the electric power industry operates the grid. Among the key trends are retiring base-load power plants, increased distributed generation, rising investment in energy efficiency and demand response, and technological innovation in heat pumps, electric vehicles (EVs) and storage. This paper outlines the challenges grid operators face as we manage grid reliability in a rapidly evolving environment.
What is required to mitigate and reduce the risk of such occurrences in North America as we move to more renewables-heavy energy mix and, more importantly, as electricity demand booms. The logical answer is simply, more investments in modernizing and strengthening the grid. It is estimated by numerous sources that funding to modernize and upgrade the grid could range between 25 to 32 trillion dollars over the next two and half decades. This is required to support the anticipated 70 % increase in renewable power generation These assumptions may not be safe in a few years as we move to electrify everything that can be electrified, so demand will increase as a consequence.
The risks for power consumers are steadily increasing as more and more homes are also adding automation and electrification which will increase their share of energy consumption
Politicians are really pushing the green agenda and have an instant desire to electrify everything, whether it makes sense or not. This means that we need to brace for impact, quality of service and higher cost to meet the unrealistic political and egotistical agenda, where the rich will get richer and the rest of us will be state dependant and expect to exists in home and energy poverty!
The “Greenwashing” agenda is driven by the UN mandate under the guise of climate change, if they are serious about climate change then put in necessary regulations to enforce GHG and carbon emissions, stop the carbon pricing scheme, this is a scheme to move money from the pockets of the working class to the elitist, as no group can stop climate change, why do we have to pay for carbon, why now legislate it out of the systems? The time is now to stop making life more expensive for consumers, unless the hidden agenda is to make the rich richer (more on this on another post)
In addition to strengthening the centralized grid, there is also a solution in boosting the share of distributed power systems, according to experts. This would alleviate the consumption load on the grid, potentially reducing the risk of overloads and outages.
Enhanced integration can bring significant societal benefits, there are myriad challenges to moving in this direction, as well as pitfalls for inefficient integrative policy. While there is no international authority in the United States or Canada that can unilaterally mandate movement towards greater integration, governments play a key role in the sector’s thought leadership, strategic planning, analysis, development, and convening of critical stakeholders to explore new opportunities. Federal governments are responsible for maintaining and ensuring energy security for their citizens. The recent meetings of the Energy Ministers of the U.S., Mexico and Canada affirms all three governments’ priorities in advancing these opportunities trilaterally.
On the other hand, we have the issue of tariff policies, that gets in the way and can also provide disincentives for cross-border trade. Even nationally-focused energy incentives, while not always a direct disincentive to cross-border investment, may also influence cross border trade opportunities. The NAFT Agreement could enable cross-border energy trade to make energy-intensive sectors more competitive, improve energy security, dampen energy price volatility, and stimulate economic growth providing there is collaboration and full transparency in the process.
Additionally, integration of the grid and generation systems can leverage the specific strengths of the constituent countries and with the acceleration of variable renewable energy use in the United States, Canadian hydropower could help with load balancing.
Another level of complexity that must be considered in the integration plan is the challenge of intermittency, transmission grid operators lack visibility of much installed solar generation (from rooftops to manufacturing plant installations). Except for large solar farms, most solar generation is interconnected at the local distribution level and, therefore, is invisible to transmission system operators in real time. System operators can only monitor the net load. Without real-time data on the behind the meter generation, operators cannot know what to expect in the case of a disruption. If generation suddenly trips off line, contingency analysis simulations may not accurately predict the resulting load levels coming onto the system.
The power industry and its partners must develop and integrate better predictive tools based on real time production data from intermittent and micro generators even as installed renewable capacity is growing. To increase the output and predictability of these weather-dependent wind and solar generators, utilities and developers are investing in advanced weather forecasting tools, this is another added cost factor to power generation and downstream consumers.
Electric system planning relies on forecasts of future demand for electricity as a critical input. In the past, this task was reasonably straightforward; it used the past to predict the future, forecasters used 10- or 20-year temperature data for load forecasting and assumed that demand would vary with temperature in much the same way as it had historically. Similarly, economic growth traditionally had a direct predictive relationship to load growth. Much of this past predictability has been turned on its head with changing trends in economic growth, decarbonizing, greening, emerging technology, regulation, weather, and many other factors, as well as a decoupling of economic and load growth. These changes are significantly transforming electric use and the way we plan for the future.
Many states have implemented clean energy policy goals to combat climate change by electrifying transportation and heating, and establishing requirements for electric utilities to source an increasing portion of their power from renewable, carbon-free sources. These “beneficial electrification” policies promise to reduce carbon emissions from transportation and heating, and to help states that have established goals of a 90% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.
Beneficial electrification will likely increase electric use significantly over time. Some EV fast chargers can use as much energy as the rest of a small residential home at peak. Although internal combustion engines may continue to predominate, the potential electric load increase from even modest EV growth will require careful planning and new demand control strategies to ensure smooth grid operations and to avoid unintended increases in peak loads.
There are numerous opportunities for power generation, distribution and simultaneously there are numerous technical challenges facing the electric power industry. The industry must work collaboratively with key stakeholder and regulators to find creative solutions for the uncertainties ahead. As we transition and modernize our power generation and distribution grid, it is opening up exciting opportunities for partnerships with inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs to develop solutions that could not have been conceived of even a few years ago. Unknowns such as electrification of transportation, manufacturing and heating will have a major impact on demand, as will the continued growth of distributed energy.
It is an exciting time to be in the industry. Electricity is and will continue to be essential to today’s society and will have a valuable contribution to prosperity and growth, however, we must manage the escalating costs and ensure that we eliminate energy poverty in every region as we continue with modernization and transition of our energy supplies.
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Dave Gajadhar is an Advisor, Speaker, Educator, and an Advocate for Human prosperity and resource optimization at Resultant Group, business modernization, waste mitigation. Supply chain integration and transition advisors.
Phone: (780) 483-4800
or contact at Twitter: @dgajadar.
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ResultantGroup – Multidemic – the impact of one or more concurrent disruptive events