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Energy Grid Changes Leave California And The Midwest Vulnerable To Blackouts

California and parts of the Midwest are at a high risk of electricity shortages in the coming years amid the transformation of their grid from one reliant on fossil fuels to one reliant on other sources of energy such as wind and solar.

The warning comes from the latest annual assessment of the grid by the North American Reliability Corporation, as cited by CNBC.

According to the assessment, the Midwest and Ontario in Canada risk power shortages because they are retiring more generation capacity than they are adding. At the same time, California’s problem is due to a "variable resource mix" and "demand variability," Mark Olson, manager of reliability assessments at NERC, said.

California this week approved a roadmap for becoming carbon neutral until 2045. The plan relies heavily on reducing hydrocarbon consumption and expanding the state’s solar power generation capacity.

Because of these problems, California could see blackouts ranging from one to ten hours, NERC warned, although it noted that the addition of new capacity and “the retention of key generators” are mitigating the risk for the time being.

For the Midwest, the North American Reliability Corporation predicts an electricity shortage of 1.3 GW to occur next summer and grow over the next ten years because coal, gas, and nuclear electricity generation capacity will be retired at a faster rate than new capacity is added.

Interestingly, no part of the United States is deemed low-risk by the NERC’s assessment. The rest of the country is deemed as being in “elevated risk” of blackouts. For the Northwest and the Southwest, the main reason for the prediction is, once again, faster retirement of fossil fuel generation capacity than addition of new capacity, as well as lower availability of hydropower.

Meanwhile, Texas’s problem is the risk of gas supply disruption in severe winter weather like last year’s Storm Uri, and New England’s problem is pretty similar, as the two rely overwhelmingly on natural gas during the season of peak demand.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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