US power grid warned over climate risks

The North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC), which is responsible for North American electric reliability, has warned that energy shortfalls are possible this summer in California, Texas and the US Midwest.

It suggested that extreme heat from a severe drought could cause power plants to fail.

In 2021, numerous extreme weather events stressed the US power grid, including the February freeze in Texas that knocked out power to millions after freezing natural gas pipes, and record heat, drought and wildfires in the West.

In its summer outlook, NERC said the ongoing drought continues to cut hydropower generation and cause wildfires in parts of the US West.

NERC said the hydropower reduction puts the entire US West “at risk of energy emergencies due to the limited supply of electricity available for transfer” in the event of a wide-area extreme heat event.

However, in Texas, NERC said an increase in mostly wind and solar generation has improved the power situation since 2021.

NERC nonetheless warned the “combination of extreme peak demand, low wind, and high outage rates from thermal generators could require system operators to use emergency procedures, up to and including temporary manual load shedding”.

That means Texas could experience rotating blackouts again.

In the US Midwest, NERC said the Midcontinent ISO faces capacity shortfalls due to a forecast increase in demand this summer coupled with a decline in generation available.

In the Missouri River basin, NERC warned a drought could reduce output from hydropower plants and thermal generators that use river water for cooling, possibly forcing Southwest Power Pool utilities to use emergency procedures during peak periods.

In Canada, NERC said Saskatchewan faces a capacity shortfall this summer due to a projected demand increase of over 7.5% from 2021.

The US East Coast and the rest of Canada should have “sufficient resources” for the summer, NERC said.

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