"The warnings keep coming that the force-fed energy transition to renewable fuels is destabilizing the U.S. electric grid, but is anyone in government paying attention? Another S.O.S. came Friday in an ominous report from PJM Interconnection, one of the nation’s largest grid operators," The Wall Street Journal's editorial board noted late last week.
The PJM report outlines a forecast of power supply and demand across the 13 eastern states within its territory, covering a population of 65 million, up to 2030. Its primary finding suggests that renewable sources are being developed at a slower pace than fossil-fuel power plants are retiring, which could result in energy "imbalances." This is a tactful way of indicating that power shortages and blackouts are likely to occur, the board noted.
Typically, PJM generates a surplus of power due to its extensive fossil-fuel fleet, which it exports to nearby power grids in the Midwest and Northeast. When wind power declined in the Midwest and central states last week, PJM helped bridge the gap between supply and demand, thereby ensuring that the lights remained on, the WSJ board continued.
This is why PJM's latest predictions are alarming, as the organization anticipates a significant decrease in its power reserves as coal and natural gas plants continue to retire, said the board. The report indicates that approximately 40,000 megawatts (MW) of power generation, equivalent to powering 30 million homes, may be retired by 2030. This represents approximately 21% of PJM's existing generation capacity.
As per the report, the majority of anticipated power-plant retirements are a result of policy-driven factors. For instance, approximately 10,500 MW of fossil-fuel generation is expected to shut down due to the high costs associated with complying with Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which include a proposed "good neighbor rule" that is anticipated to be implemented next month.
The report highlights that utility companies' ESG (environmental, social, and governance) commitments are also pushing for coal plant closures. Climate policies in Illinois and New Jersey are expected to decrease power generation by 8,900 MW. One question that arises from these developments is whether these states intend to depend on their neighboring regions for power supply.
The board's op-ed continued:
Many states have established ambitious renewable goals, and the Inflation Reduction Act lavishes enormous subsidies on wind, solar and batteries. But the report says the “historical rate of completion for renewable projects has been approximately 5%,” in part because of permitting challenges. In an optimistic case, the report estimates 21,000 MW of wind, solar and battery storage capacity will be added to the grid by 2030—about half as much as the expected fossil-fuel retirements.
In addition, there is another concern that demand for electric power will escalate as data centers proliferate, and the government pushes for the electrification of vehicles, heating, and other areas. The report highlights that Loudoun County, Virginia, features the "largest concentration of data centers in the world," which will contribute to the surge in demand for power, the board notes.
"The report doesn’t say this, no doubt owing to political reticence, but the conclusion is clear. The left’s green-energy transition is incompatible with a growing economy and improving living standards," says the board. "Renewables don’t provide reliable power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the progressive campaign to shut down coal and gas plants that do will invariably result in outages."