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Forbes: Can Grid Operators Handle Heatwaves And Climate Change?

Posted by Ken Silverstein on Jun 28, 2021

Forbes summarized the challenges being faced by grid operators in the face of severe heat waves in the West, quoting AEE’s Leah Rubin Shen. Read snippets below and the full article here.

Get used to triple-digit temperatures. But the heat and drought combined in the western United States also mean that hydro plants now produce much less electricity than before. Just how are grid operators dealing with the current dynamics and the increased pressure to add renewables?

The state imports much of its carbon-heavy power from its neighbors. But those same western states are also enduring heatwaves and putting limits on the energy supplies they can export. Indeed, 11 of those states reported triple-digit temperatures in June. To boot: California has ditched all of its nuclear energy plants, which not only provided power 24-7 but also supplied carbon-free energy. 

Notably, climate change threatens water supplies — a critical component of electricity generation: energy, water, and food are inextricably linked. They compete for limited supplies. Will there be enough to go around? If the demand for energy goes up so too does the need for water. And renewables are less thirsty than other energy forms.

“As the temperatures get hotter, we will have to ratchet down hydro,” adds Leah Rubin Shen, policy director for the Advanced Energy Economy. “There’s no silver bullet. It will take all the resources we have to decarbonize the grid.”

How can distributed energy resources such as onsite generation, battery storage, and microgrids help the fight against weather extremes? It’s a way to alleviate strain on the main grid while using clean energy and ensuring reliability. And utility regulators are laying the groundwork for continued growth, with California’s ISO chief calling distributed energy resources “absolutely critical.”  

Extreme weather events and heatwaves are no longer hypothetical. To prepare, western grid operators say that they are in constant communication with their stakeholders and they are mobilizing their resources — including distributed assets and demand response programs. But consumers must also stand ready and start by dialing up their thermostats and using energy during off-peak times.

Read the full article here.

Topics: AEE In The News