From The Center Square:

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the regulatory body that oversees grid operations across the United States and Canada, warned in its summer reliability assessment published on Wednesday that the entire West and most of the Midwest face at least an “elevated” risk in terms of an insufficient supply of electricity in coming up against high demand.

Devin Hartman, director of energy and environmental policy at the Washington, D.C.-based R Street Institute, provided some context regarding the NERC assessment.

“The risk is elevated relative to the industry baseline for the last century,” he said, explaining that baseline is based on a 1 in 10 model – that is, 10% – that goes back to World War II, meaning being over that 10% threshold counts as “elevated.”

“The region is looking pretty good,” said Hartman, who used to do the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission summer assessments and served on NERC’s member/policy committee. “The system could buckle under certain circumstances with extreme weather. It’s unlikely, but not trivial.”

The biggest threat to Washington’s power system, according to Hartman, comes from a lack of coordination between multi-state/regional grid systems – which will only become more challenging in terms of incorporating renewable energies – and the need to consider new factors in making risk assessments.

“Electrons don’t stop at the state border,” he quipped in noting that some states have more power than others, but all share equally in a shortfall, sometimes leading to “tricky politics.”

“Emissions also don’t respect state boundaries,” he said.

Grid operators are starting to make noise about the system’s inefficiencies.

“It’s incredibly fragmented,” Hartman said of a system in which, according to him, there is a gap between technical potential and actual performance of systems. “It’s no joke.”

In terms of assessing the risk to the electrical grid, Hartman said current assessments don’t consider things like the cyberattack last year that saw the Colonial Pipeline Company halt all pipeline operations to contain the attack, and the intermittent nature of solar and wind power.

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