The Grim Power Outlook Spreads Beyond Texas

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In summary: Texas is concerned about their aging power plants and their inability to replace them on time. NERC is a credible source for electric reliability information, but extreme weather conditions are making things difficult.
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anorlunda
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This year, the grim outlook goes to other parts of the USA. Not just Texas.

NERC is the most credible source we have for US electric reliability topics.

https://www.newsnationnow.com/science/parts-of-us-could-see-power-blackouts-in-heat-of-summer/

Parts of US could see power blackouts on hottest days of the summer​

Jun. 3rd, 2022​

Large parts of the country could see rolling power blackouts on some of the hottest days of the summer this year.

Extreme weather, according to Reuters, is causing increasing challenges for power grids across the United States. Officials are concerned that the record heat and drought the country has seen could mean rotating blackouts in several regions.

A May report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation said a combination of drought, heat, potential cyberattacks, geopolitical conflicts and supply chain problems could disrupt the power supply.
NERC’s report said the Midwest is at especially high risk because of the retirement of older energy plants, causing decreased capacity from last summer and increased demand.

Planned maintenance and forced outages are threatening the Midwest’s summer generating capacity, too, as well as the shutdown of coal and nuclear plants.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, which is the region’s grid operator, has already warned of potential capacity shortfalls and other reliability concerns in the north and central regions of its coverage area.

Plummeting river levels could also cripple hydropower production in the Southwest, NERC warned. Texas’ drought-related heat events could cause an extreme demand for energy.

The Washington Post reports that New Mexico’s attorney general is preparing for worst-case scenarios, along with North Dakota and Arkansas officials.

In California, officials are warning residents that more than 1 million addresses could go dark this summer.
 
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Dang. Almost makes me want to shell out the money for solar panels for my house.
 
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  • #3
Drakkith said:
Dang. Almost makes me want to shell out the money for solar panels for my house.
Almost... But since power outages are usually temporary one might just get by with a Powerwall system.
 
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  • #4
Drakkith said:
Dang. Almost makes me want to shell out the money for solar panels for my house.

bob012345 said:
Almost... But since power outages are usually temporary one might just get by with a Powerwall system.
You'll want to check if you can run off grid with a solar array, with or without batteries. In some jurisdictions it isn't allowed, and even if it is I would think you have to have batteries to properly match the capacity and load.
 
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  • #5
Rolling blackouts are designed to interrupt each customer no more than a few hours at a time. Hence the label "rolling." The idea is that the interruption is too short for your freezer to thaw, or your pipes to freeze in winter. It could be just a time out in your normal routine, not a serious disruption of your whole life style. Compare it to giving your teen a few hours per day with "no screens"

If that's the case, then maybe you don't need power backups at all. Just find a way to enjoy it. Perhaps take a scenic drive in the country, or curl up with a book on your backlit Kindle reader, or have a conversation with others.

After having experienced a rolling blackout a few times, you'll gain experience for how to better cope with them.

It is easy for me to imagine two neighbors, one who spends many thousands of dollars on ways to keep the power (and his TV) on during rolling blackouts, and the other who spends nothing. My expectation is that the second one will benefit more from the life enriching experiences.
 
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  • #6
anorlunda said:
Rolling blackouts are designed to interrupt each customer no more than a few hours at a time. Hence the label "rolling." The idea is that the interruption is too short for your freezer to thaw, or your pipes to freeze in winter. It could be just a time out in your normal routine, not a serious disruption of your whole life style. Compare it to giving your teen a few hours per day with "no screens"

If that's the case, then maybe you don't need power backups at all. Just find a way to enjoy it. Perhaps take a scenic drive in the country, or curl up with a book on your backlit Kindle reader, or have a conversation with others.

After having experienced a rolling blackout a few times, you'll gain experience for how to better cope with them.

It is easy for me to imagine two neighbors, one who spends many thousands of dollars on ways to keep the power (and his TV) on during rolling blackouts, and the other who spends nothing. My expectation is that the second one will benefit more from the life enriching experiences.
Certainly California is expert at intentional rolling blackouts but Texas is still learning the ropes. In the Feb '21 debacle some people were out far longer than others and for me the power was on then off for inconsistent times periods. Also, if one is lucky enough to be on the same circuit as a fire station or a hospital one's power is never shut off on purpose.
 
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bob012345 said:
Certainly California is expert at intentional rolling blackouts but Texas is still learning the ropes. In the Feb '21 debacle some people were out far longer than others and for me the power was on then off for inconsistent times periods. Also, if one is lucky enough to be on the same circuit as a fire station or a hospital one's power is never shut off on purpose.
Real life experiences may vary. My point is that scary news should not stampede 100 million American households into running out to spend $10K each on backup power equipment, or $40K each for solar power. That kind of expense is justified for only 5% of homeowners (my guess).
 
  • #8
anorlunda said:
Real life experiences may vary. My point is that scary news should not stampede 100 million American households into running out to spend $10K each on backup power equipment, or $40K each for solar power. That kind of expense is justified for only 5% of homeowners (my guess).
True. I am in a renewable energy group and several members have gone solar but it is because they believe solar is a good thing in the long run and not because of the occasional power loss that happens. They offset their monthly bills and do some net metering. Some do it more as a hobby. Some are totally off grid.
 
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  • #9
russ_watters said:
You'll want to check if you can run off grid with a solar array, with or without batteries. In some jurisdictions it isn't allowed
That's true and IMO that's awful. I've tried to imagine the motivations for such restrictions, but the best I can think of are racial/elitist motives trying to exclude riffraff.
 
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  • #10
anorlunda said:
That's true and IMO that's awful. I've tried to imagine the motivations for such restrictions, but the best I can think of are racial/elitist motives trying to exclude riffraff.
Certainly some localities may have some restriction but I would be interested in knowing if you know of any city that would simply refuse to permit professionally designed and built net zero homes.
 
  • #11
anorlunda said:
That's true and IMO that's awful. I've tried to imagine the motivations for such restrictions, but the best I can think of are racial/elitist motives trying to exclude riffraff.
I think you are WAY off base on that. The motivation is much more likely to be financial. American politicians are notorious for passing laws "suggested" to them by lobbyists for companies that bankroll their re-election campaigns.
 
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bob012345 said:
Certainly some localities may have some restriction but I would be interested in knowing if you know of any city that would simply refuse to permit professionally designed and built net zero homes.
I'm not an expert, especially when it comes to local ordinances in 105 localities. But here are some quick searches on the topic. The Youtube search found one hit on the same problem in Canada.

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=off+grid+illegal&ia=web
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=off+grid+illegal

Off grid and net zero self sufficient are not always the same thing. A net zero self sufficient house may keep it's grid connection to use as a convenient and cheap backup or to power the house during periods of maintenance or alterations on the renewables, or just to keep nasty local officials off their back.

Just because you have a grid connection, doesn't mean you have to use it. In most places, the monthly minimum will not break your bank account. I just paid my Duke Energy bill for my 1 kWh usage. It cost me $7.04 after all fees, taxes and minimums were included.

Edit: I blew it in this post. I said net zero where I meant self sufficient. Net zero implies that sometimes you import power from the grid, and sometimes export to the grid, with net zero exchange. Obviously, you must have a grid connection to do that.
 
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  • #13
anorlunda said:
I'm not an expert, especially when it comes to local ordinances in 105 localities. But here are some quick searches on the topic. The Youtube search found one hit on the same problem in Canada.

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=off+grid+illegal&ia=web
https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=off+grid+illegal

Off grid and net zero self sufficient are not always the same thing. A net zero self sufficient house may keep it's grid connection to use as a convenient and cheap backup or to power the house during periods of maintenance or alterations on the renewables, or just to keep nasty local officials off their back.

Just because you have a grid connection, doesn't mean you have to use it. In most places, the monthly minimum will not break your bank account. I just paid my Duke Energy bill for my 1 kWh usage. It cost me $7.04 after all fees, taxes and minimums were included.

Edit: I blew it in this post. I said net zero where I meant self sufficient. Net zero implies that sometimes you import power from the grid, and sometimes export to the grid, with net zero exchange. Obviously, you must have a grid connection to do that.
As an aside, there is a move in the U.S. for utilities to charge a much higher minimum service fee such as $25 even if no commodity was used. Greed is epidemic.
 
  • #14
bob012345 said:
As an aside, there is a move in the U.S. for utilities to charge a much higher minimum service fee such as $25 even if no commodity was used. Greed is epidemic.
I've been expecting that increase since I first read about net metering in maybe 2000. I would not ascribe it to greed.

Engineers are fond of limiting cases. Consider this limiting case. 100% of consumers have solar at home and don't need the grid at all for normal use. However, they like keeping the grid connection for backup, and against the eventuality that we have 2 weeks of dense clouds and almost no solar production. The only source of revenue remaining to support the grid is the minimum monthly charge. One could think of it as a fee for backup service, rather than a charge for energy used.

Given that, would you say that a monthly minimum is greed?

Given those economics, I foresee that the whole idea of net metering is not sustainable in the future. As the number of net zero customers grows from 0% to 100%, there must be some intermediate percent where net metering policy must cease. With no monthly minimum, as the number of net zero customers grow, the non-solar customers are stuck paying 100% of the cost of the grid. That is a classic death spiral. It could lead to premature collapse of the power industry before everybody has converted to net zero. I wrote about that risk in this PF Insights article.

https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/renewable-energy-meets-power-grid-operations/
 
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I just hope independent watchdog agencies and consumer advocates keep pressure on the utilities to hold them accountable.

Also, I expect a greater measure of chaos across a wide spectrum of industries just because society has let the systems of managment and control get too complicated and intertwined. I think we will see a transition to a stable system but that transition may be long and painful.
 
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  • #16
We have hydroelectric power here on the island at the end of the Earth. I pay the equivalent of US$1.25 per day just for the connection. Since I also have PV, my total annual electrical energy budget is a net generator of energy.

There is no legal requirement that I be connected to the grid, but the virtually unlimited 3PH power for welding and workshop machinery comes in handy.

The rate the state pays for my excess PV (during the day) has now been cut to 25% of what they charge me for energy at night. It is now uneconomic for me to store energy, by delaying their water flow through the turbines during the day, until that night.

I did the costing on a miniature 30-metre head pumped-hydro scheme, to cut my cost of energy to zero, but then I realized that over the last 50 years I had already built and paid for one, now run by the state.

Just how we move forward from here, I do not know. It seems the hydroelectric system is operated by the state, to the benefit of corporations, rather than the people who paid for it. Each time the state talks of selling our hydroelectric system, I advocate setting up a cooperative of all state residents, to buy it, or take it over from "our" government.
 
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  • #17
Baluncore said:
I advocate setting up a cooperative of all state residents, to buy it, or take it over from "our" government.

There's nothing wrong with power coops. It makes people feel more in control. Around the world, some coops are successful, some have been disasters. They have to be managed well, professionally, and with considerable foresight.

The biggest threat to coops is change. Hydro power is arguably the form of power least subject to rapid change. So that's a plus.

But when you say "we", don't forget about the city dwellers in Hobart (pic below). In the USA, about 50% of the population are renters or live in multifamily dwellings who can't have their own backyard power generation. Their views may differ from homeowners.

1654603233332.png


You might also consider the model of separating ownership of power generation from power transmission/distribution/retail. For practical reasons, transmission and distribution must be a monopoly, but generators can compete rather than have monopoly power. I once worked at NYISO, the organization that oversaw that divide in New York State. It worked well in New York, less well in Texas, and California.

The thought make me envious. I would love to be involved in the creation of a new power coop. But Tasmania is too far away from my children.
 
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  • #18
Air conditioning as a response to man-made warming! Quite a good example of a positive feedback loop.
 
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Related to The Grim Power Outlook Spreads Beyond Texas

1. What is the Grim Power Outlook?

The Grim Power Outlook refers to the current state of the power grid in Texas, which is facing significant challenges due to extreme weather conditions and aging infrastructure.

2. How is the Grim Power Outlook affecting Texas residents?

The Grim Power Outlook has resulted in widespread power outages and rolling blackouts in Texas, leaving many residents without electricity and heat during a time of record-breaking cold temperatures.

3. What caused the Grim Power Outlook in Texas?

The Grim Power Outlook in Texas is primarily caused by a combination of severe winter weather, lack of preparedness for such extreme conditions, and issues with the state's power grid and infrastructure.

4. How is the Grim Power Outlook impacting the rest of the country?

The Grim Power Outlook in Texas has had ripple effects across the country, as the state is a major producer of energy and supplies power to other states. The power outages and disruptions in Texas have led to increased energy prices and strain on the overall power grid.

5. What is being done to address the Grim Power Outlook in Texas?

Efforts are being made to restore power to affected areas and address the issues with the power grid in Texas. Additionally, there are discussions about implementing changes and improvements to prevent similar situations in the future.

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