Strain on Our Power Grid During This Summer’s Heat Waves Demonstrates Need for Reforms

Odds are you’re beginning to really feel the heat in your part of the country. August can be quite a slog in many areas, including here at CRES Forum’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Besides being rather uncomfortable, what dangers does excessive heat pose for America’s energy supply as households and businesses turn up the air conditioners?

Well, a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece titled, “Climate change is heating up Los Angeles. We need a grid that can keep the power on when it’s sweltering.”

“Los Angeles, apparently, isn’t ready for the new normal,” the Times Editorial Board wrote. “The demand for electricity Friday, Saturday and Sunday [July 6-8] overwhelmed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s aged system, prompting power outages that affected more than 80,000 customers.”

A recent Forbes article by Ed Hirs titled, “America’s Power Grids Are Not Ready For Summer Heatwaves,” echoed that sentiment and suggested that this month could be even more threating due to a number of regulatory factors.

“Across a year in ‘electricity only’ markets, the peak loads occur in August in the South,” Hirs writes, “and the grid operators expect, and sometimes hope, that there will be sufficient generating capacity to meet peak load demand.”

“Hope”? Is that where American energy reliability should be nearly two decades into the 21st Century?

It is likely too late to save us from the risks this summer, but we think energy innovation that is ready to be deployed can ameliorate similar situations years to come. CRES Forum partnered with our friends at Advanced Energy Economy to publish a policy brief today outlining five simple legislative solutions that should be have bipartisan appeal.

Each of the options described rely on different technologies, but all represent an opportunity to embrace innovation to modernize towards a more clean, secure, and affordable grid. The ideas include:

  • Streamline Federal Permitting for Advanced Energy Projects
  • Encourage Grid Planners to Consider Alternatives to Transmission Investment
  • Allow Energy Storage and Energy Efficiency to Compete with Additional Generation
  • Allow Large Customers to Choose their Electricity Sources
  • Allow Utilities and Consumers to Benefit from Cloud Computing Software

These options are important steps that Congress can take to unleash increased modernization across every state leading to lower energy costs and increased choice for consumers, while spurring investment and job creation for all advanced energy resources across communities in the U.S.

For Summer 2018, it looks like we will have to cross our fingers and grab a glass of lemonade to cool off. Hopefully it won’t take a tragic failure of the grid for lawmakers to act.

Download the full paper here and register for a free webinar to discuss it on August 28.

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