The US power grid needs billions of billions of upgrades to meet renewable energy demand

In August, California announced an end to fossil fuel-powered car sales by 2035, prompting green energy advocates to celebrate.

However, a few days later, flexible alerts followed the announcement, asking Golden State residents to avoid charging their EVs during peak hours. Failure to comply with the provision led to widespread blackouts due to further stress on the electricity grid.

The ironic turn of events underscores a huge problem renewable energy faces as the demand for green technologies continues to tax the antiquated US power grid.

Even using nuclear power as a crutch, the cost of the necessary upgrades amounts to $ 4 trillion, according to a WoodMac estimate. Without nuclear power, that price increases by another half a trillion dollars.

Another tally suggests that the cost of power grid upgrades could reach $ 7 trillion.

In May, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a $ 2.5 billion investment to modernize and upgrade the nation’s electrical system as part of the Building a Better Grid Initiative.

The spending package totals $ 20 billion, but represents only a fraction of what is needed to meet Biden’s green energy goals.

Solar panels on the roof of the Bronx, with a distant view of Manhattan, on January 17, 2014, in New York. (Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images)

“The power grid is not currently designed to house large amounts of renewable energy,” Alan Duncan told The Epoch Times.

Duncan is the founder of Solar Panels Network USA and is familiar with the challenges of the power grid. He explained that more than one variable contributes to the need for an enhanced grid, making renewable energies truly sustainable.

One factor is the way the grid is structured and distributes energy.

Another is that renewables are currently not considered reliable.

Problems with intermittent refueling spells

“This is because it is intermittent and can be affected by several factors, including weather conditions,” Duncan said.

As evidence of this, millions of Texans experienced power outages during a brutal winter storm in February 2021. Subsequently, the sub-zero storm sparked a heated debate within the energy community about how fragile renewable energy is in the context of severe weather accidents.

This is despite the Lone Star state government spending over $ 80 billion in federal subsidies over the course of a decade. In addition, about $ 1.5 billion annually is also spent on state subsidies for renewable energy.

Regardless of how much money is invested, insiders argue that renewable energy has not reached the reality of powering a country like the United States.

Much of this has to do with the narrative surrounding green energy. For many, the concept of fully renewable energy means switching completely to electricity. However, this is an unfortunate approach, according to some.

John Murphy is a member of the Clean Energy Jobs Coalition of New York (CEJC) and international representative of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry.

He told The Epoch Times that changing the goal of decarbonization, not electrification, can ease the pressure on the besieged power grid.

Murphy explained that the New York government mandates that 70% of the state’s energy must come from green energy sources by 2030. By 2040, the state’s goal is zero carbon emissions.

Photo by Epoch Times
Water from the Niagara River passes through a hydroelectric dam, the Robert Moses Generating Facility, on June 4, 2013 in Lewiston, New York. (John Moore / Getty Images)

“We’re looking at seven and a half years and we’re not even close,” he said.

Currently, less than 19 percent of New York’s energy comes from renewable sources.

Like others at the CEJC, Murphy says there must be a plan, not a ban, on the extra energies until they can be phased out.

“There is room for renewable energy, but we need every resource at our disposal for the transition.”

Yet there is opposition to the use of additional energies such as natural gas and nuclear energy during the conversion phase.

Paradoxically, much of this comes from environmentalists, who cling to an “all or nothing” view of green energy.

Much government legislation has also been built around this narrative, which Murphy says is an obstacle to true and lasting decarbonisation.

And to decarbonise, he says more power plants are needed.

“We don’t have enough generation capacity as they are trying to shut down the power plants. Those plants are 50 years old, ”Murphy said.

There is also the problem of peak hour demand, which up until now has been one of the main obstacles for renewable energy.

Offer versus demand

Demand far exceeds supply capacity on the renewable front. Globally, available green energy sources are estimated to increase by 35 gigawatts between 2021 and 2022. Although, at the same time, energy demand is projected to reach 100 gigawatts.

This means that more flexible alerts and blackouts are not only possible, but probable.

“For example, extreme cold can cause problems because people use more energy to heat their homes. This puts a strain on power plants and can lead to blackouts.

“Other weather events such as hurricanes, fires and severe storms can also damage power lines and disrupt service,” Duncan explained.

He also believes that these problems will not be limited to certain seasons. The year-round extreme weather phenomenon is putting a strain on America’s squeaky power grid as demand continues to skyrocket.

Just before the summer heatwaves hit this year, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation released an assessment that several regions of the United States, including the Upper Midwest, Texas, and California, were getting closer and closer to emergencies. energetic.

The announcement became an omen, as summer blackouts hit multiple cities and states.

And it all comes back to great demand, especially at certain times of the day.

Wind turbines
Wind turbines, at the Block Island wind farm, tower over the water off the coast of Block Island, RI on October 14, 2016. (Don Emmert / AFP via Getty Images)

“Peak hours in demand for electrical services are like peak hours. Spikes in demand occur at predictable times, usually during very hot or very cold temperatures when air conditioners and heating systems are running at their maximum, “author and energy expert Jill Tietjen told The Epoch Times. .

Tietjen began a career in the energy industry in 1976 and currently sits on the board of directors of Georgia Transmission Corporation.

He explained that during peak hours of power consumption, people shouldn’t be plugging electric vehicles in literally anywhere. Tietjen also noted that there was talk of smart chargers for electric cars at one point, but it didn’t come to fruition.

The downside of the energy demand challenge is the lack of storage capacity.

“Energy storage is absolutely necessary to help the electricity grid make the transition to more renewable energy,” said Tietjen.

Murphy agreed that the lack of energy storage is a “huge problem”.

There is also the time imbalance between peak demand and renewable energy production, known in the industry as the “duck curve”.

Tietjen illustrated that you get solar energy when the sun shines and wind energy when it blows. However, renewables do not necessarily generate enough energy during peak use periods.

He says the duck curve puts a strain on the power grid because solar and wind power are intermittent.

Both Murphy and Duncan acknowledge that power transmission is a significant piece of the energy puzzle in making renewables more reliable.

Pointing out that even green energy leaders like Denmark will not completely phase out fossil fuels for nearly 30 years, Murphy said we must “work with what we have” and set realistic transition goals.

In the meantime, this means using non-renewable sources as a crutch to avoid further problems with the electricity grid.

“This will continue to be a problem for decades in many months of the year,” Tietjen said.

Spredemann in autumn

To follow

Autumn is a South American journalist who focuses primarily on Latin American affairs for The Epoch Times.

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