Opinion

June 5, 2023 | 5.40pm

Summers coming. That means sun, swimming, grilling and blackouts.

This is the warning from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

According to NERC, at least two-thirds of the country is at risk of major power outages this summer.

This extends to nearly everything west of the Mississippi except for Texas.

Texas and much of the Midwest will be fine, the report said, as long as we don’t experience windless, hot summer days.

Well, that’s a relief. When will we ever have warm, windless summer days in Texas and the Midwest?

Part of the problem is the constant removal of fossil fuel plants from the grid.

These plants should be replaced by renewable wind and solar energy, but wind doesn’t work on windless days and solar doesn’t keep the air conditioning running on muggy nights.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has made matters worse with new rules on nitrogen oxides from its recently finalized Good Neighbor Plan, which calls for fossil-fuel power plants in 22 states to reduce NOx emissions. The NERC expects power plants to comply by limiting hours of operation, but warns that regulatory waivers may be needed in the event of an energy crisis.

The Journal notes, “The EPA said the rule would not jeopardize grid reliability, but then why would power plants need waivers to prevent blackouts?”

Why really?

There are other technical issues as well: Defective solar inverters are widely used and can fail and make grid problems worse.

The Journals’ tip: Buy a backup generator while the stores still have some; don’t wait until late summer when everyone wants one. (Done!)

We had a warming (chill-down?) for this crisis last winter when many places suffered continual blackouts due to inadequate electricity supplies in the face of cold temperatures that, in fact, weren’t unusually cold.

My area in Knoxville, Tennessee has seen temperatures in the single digits, which aren’t that unusual but what power company hackers have called unprecedented.

The coldest temperature in Knoxville was 24 below, in 1985, and they managed to keep the lights on for that.

But that was before the Tennessee Valley Authority began shutting down coal, nuclear and gas plants.


The NERC applies to most states west of the Mississippi.
Christopher Sadowski

What used to be one of the best areas in the nation for abundant cheap energy, that’s why much of the Manhattan Project was nearby, now faces constant blackouts because the climate is cold.

But it wasn’t just TVA. Duke Energy has also apologized to its customers for the ongoing blackouts.

It was a problem across a large area with temperatures that, while cold, weren’t really bad enough to warrant widespread shutdowns.

New York isn’t looking good, as state regulations are forcing peak oil and gas rigs to quickly start up power plants that can help meet peak demand in an offline crisis.

Utilities that cannot meet peak demand must engage in load shedding through continuous blackouts or face total collapse. It just got harder.

Why is all this happening now?

The short answer is that the people running things care more about green politics than the quality of life of the people they are supposed to serve.

A sensible regulatory system would put grid reliability at the top of the priority list.

When the power goes out, people’s lives are cut short, the old and sick are put at risk (in the heat and especially in the cold), businesses have to close and lose money, workers give up their pay, and the whole atmosphere approaches that of a decrepit Third World nation.

If you cared about both the planet and people, you wouldn’t shut down power plants until you put in enough new capacity ONline to replace them and meet expected additional demand.

And you wouldn’t make unreliable technologies like wind and solar, which tend to fail when they’re needed most, the mainstay of your generation scheme.


Building more nuclear power plants can help reduce grid stress.
AP Photo/John Bazemore, File

To its credit, TVA, at least, is working to build more nuclear power plants, which are both carbon-free and highly reliable, to bolster its capacity.

But I doubt we’ll see that in New York or California anytime soon, even though many European nations recognize nuclear power as a greenhouse-friendly energy source. (And even more will be needed if governments plan to replace most vehicles with electric going forward.)

But we didn’t see sensible, people-friendly energy policies in many places across America.

This is because we lack sensible, people-friendly leadership.

In fact, if people run things wanted to make the lives of ordinary Americans worse, what would they do differently?

As you ponder this question, consider purchasing a generator. I did it.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee and founder of the blog InstaPundit.com.


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6/5/23



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