Boyden Gray & Associates counsel Michael Buschbacher and research fellow Taylor Myers published an article in the American Conservative on September 6, 2022, arguing that current policies have led steadily to a less reliable electric grid. They write,
Our confused and halting response to climate change is already exposing Americans to new and potentially devastating risks during periods of extreme heat and cold. But, notwithstanding the myriad news stories to the contrary, this isn’t the fault of record temperatures or increases in extreme weather, but rather the ill-considered way our attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector have weakened the electric grid.
The American electrical grid used to be supplied primarily through very reliable baseload sources like coal and nuclear power plants. But strong pressure for decarbonization has led to a shift away from these sources.
Our ability to consistently meet changing demand has been weakened as intermittent sources like wind and solar have steadily displaced ultra-stable sources like nuclear and coal. Because the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow, solar and wind are not always available when called upon. Increasing use of intermittent energy generation makes the grid less resilient in times of stress. Serious problems manifest during periods of unusual heat or cold when electricity demand tends to spike. When a demand spike coincides with low available supply, grid operators are forced to ask customers to reduce power and, if the imbalance persists, eventually to order load shedding (i.e., blackouts) to prevent total grid collapse.
Increasingly, renewable advocates have been blaming the decline of grid reliability on climate change. But the authors explained,
the real “problem is federal and state policies which, by mandate or subsidy, spur the development of weather dependent generation resources at the expense of the dispatchable resources needed for system stability and resource adequacy.” In other words, “the main threat” to reliability is an energy policy that handsomely rewards wind and solar whenever they happen to show up, but fails to penalize them when they are not available to meet peak demand.
The full op-ed, entitled FERC Gaslights America, is available here.