The Midwest is facing mounting risks to the resiliency of its electric power grid. Industries, regulators, and power companies are joining a growing chorus cautioning that shuttering traditional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants without securing the availability of equal power generating capacity has serious implications for the region. It is up to policymakers to take the steps needed – both in the near-term and by addressing more foundational longer-term reforms – to avoid serious impacts on Midwestern businesses and consumers.
In its 2021 Reliability Assessment, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) cautioned that the high pace of retirements would lead to shortfalls sooner than expected. While renewables are excellent and cost-effective sources of energy, new projects are not always an exact one-for-one replacement as they continue to lack essential dispatchable qualities and cannot be deployed to meet demand unless weather conditions are right.
“In the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) area, a reserve margin shortfall previously reported is advancing from 2025 to 2024. MISO could face the retirement and resultant loss of over 13 GW of resource capacity over the 2021-2024 period. At this level of retirements, resource additions must increase beyond current projections to avoid a capacity shortfall in 2024. The retirement of these traditional resources also accelerates the change in resource mix and punctuates the urgency for implementing resource adequacy and energy sufficiency initiatives in the area.“NERC Long Term Reliability Assessment, December 2021
The advancing threat of a shortfall should be an essential wakeup call to regulators and governments in the Midwest that reliability must be front and center when crafting energy policy and making decisions. The lack of reliable energy sources risks leaving Americans in the dark and cold. Executives at MISO have expressed the urgent need to bring reliable capacity online to avoid worsening shortfalls this year.
“Keeping the power on should be the foremost objective of legislators and regulators. Transitioning the grid too quickly without policies in place to put reliability first represents a significant risk to Midwestern businesses and families,” Todd Snitchler, President and CEO of EPSA said. “Instituting brownouts or telling people they can’t turn on their heating or air conditioner isn’t an option, no matter how temporary it is. Americans deserve to have power that is clean, dependable, and affordable at the flip of a switch.”
Read more about on what journalists, grid operators, and industry groups across the Midwest have to say below:
Print and digital versions of the document are available here.
Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO):
“We’re going to need some type of gas asset in the footprint that we can rely on …Even with the recognized growth of alternative and renewable energy sources, MISO continues to be concerned about the looming shortfall of generation needed to ensure grid reliability in the region. Within the MISO region, the retirement of generation plants is occurring far faster than new energy sources with equivalent attributes, whatever the fuel source, can be developed, constructed and brought online.”
E&E News, September 6, 2022
Michigan Star Tribune:
“But renewable power doesn’t have the constancy of fossil fuel or nuclear plants. So, power generating capacity gained by renewables isn’t a one-for-one replacement for what’s lost from coal plants …While the generation mix is changing, severe weather is increasingly toying with the delicate electricity supply-and-demand balance in MISO and other regional U.S. electric grids.”
Michigan Star Tribune, May 14, 2022
John Bear, CEO, MISO:
“Everybody’s got a good sense of where we want to go in terms of decarbonizing the fleet, and we are moving in that direction. Unfortunately, we’re moving in that direction quite quickly and I’m worried about the transition.”
Politico, May 31, 2022
Crain’s Chicago Business:
“The elimination of carbon-emitting power plants in Illinois over the next 20 years will leave the Chicago area without enough generating capacity to meet its needs, forcing the region to import electricity from other states for the first time in modern memory … For example, it’s possible that power sent to Illinois from other states will be generated by fossil fuel plants, creating additional carbon emissions that would at least partially undermine the climate benefits of closing such plants in Illinois.”
Crain’s Chicago Business, September 15, 2022
Mark Denzler, President and CEO, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association:
“There is going to be a capacity shortage and we’ve seen warnings from utilities and regional grid operators talking about potentially rolling brownouts as soon as this summer … You [need to] have something to backfill the loss of baseload generation, which is coal-fired energy and natural gas-fired energy. Those are power sources that operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As you know, with renewable [energy] the wind doesn’t blow every day and the sun doesn’t shine every day … When it becomes one hundred degrees and someone goes to turn on their air conditioner and they’re told, ‘I’m sorry, you’re in a rolling brownout, you’re not allowed to have air conditioning on,’ that’s going to generate a lot of phone calls to legislators and the governor.”
The Center Square, May 19, 2022
Melissa Seymour, Vice President of External Affairs, MISO:
“’Unless more capacity is built or bought, especially capacity able to reliably generate during tight system conditions, the shortfalls we experience this year will continue and get worse going forward.’ Seymour said it takes a larger volume of renewable power to make up for the reliability and dependability of ‘traditional’ energy from fossil fuels like coal.”
NPR Kentucky, July 8, 2022
Tony Campbell, President and CEO, East Kentucky Power Cooperative:
“As the U.S. shuts down traditional power plants and turns to renewables, we face a growing threat to the reliability of the electric grid should we fail to have a thoughtful, deliberate plan to ensure reliability through the transition.”
Letter to the White House, January 2021