Two-thirds of North America is at risk of energy shortfalls this summer during periods of extreme demand, due to temperature spikes, according to the North American Electric Reliability Council’s 2023 summer assessment.
Although NERC identified no “high-risk” areas, the number of areas that are at “elevated risk” has increased from last year. NERC’s assessment found that we have adequate resources for normal summer peak demand, but we have shortfalls, if summer temperatures spike, in seven areas: the U.S. Western Interconnection, SPP, MISO, ERCOT, SERC Central, New England, and Ontario.
The cause is attributed to the retirement of fossil plants, coupled with supply chain issues – affecting maintenance and summer preparedness, and delays – affecting the addition of supply resources, such as wind, solar and battery energy storage, which has increased the risks for supply shortages – especially in the western two-thirds of North America if summer temperatures should spike.
In particular, NERC said that:
- Areas in the U.S. Western Interconnection are at elevated risk due to wide-area heat events that can drive above-normal demand and strain resources and the transmission network.
- In SPP and MISO, wind energy output will be key to meeting normal summer peak and extreme demand levels due to little excess firm capacity.
- The risk of drought and high temperatures in ERCOT may challenge system resources and may result in emergency procedures, including the need for operator- controlled load shedding during periods of low wind and high generator outages.
- The SERC Central region is forecasting higher peak demand and less supply capacity, creating challenges for operators to maintain reserves in extreme scenarios.
- New England has lower available capacity than last year, resulting in a higher likelihood of system operators using emergency procedures to manage extreme demand conditions.
- In Ontario, extended nuclear refurbishment has reduced available capacity, limiting system reserves needed to manage peak demand.
One positive that recently occurred, this May, that could help keep supply sources available was a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court that halted the EPA’s Good Neighbor Air Quality Plan. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, as the plan would have limited the operation of coal-fired power plants in 23 states.