Correct, Hot Air, Premature Coal Closures Pose a Serious Threat to Grid Stability

A recent article at Hot Air claims that climate-focused energy policies, including premature closures of coal power plants, threaten the reliability of the U.S. electrical grid. This is true. Multiple utility operators have issued warnings over recent months that shutting down reliable energy sources without suitable backups will result in rolling blackouts and grid instability.

The article, “Will the Sierra Club Apologize If the Lights Go Out in Baltimore?” written by Hot Air contributor Beege Welborn, describes the situation many states are facing, but especially the New England region, as green and net-zero emissions policies are taking their toll on electric power generation in the states. Welborn writes:

I’m no math major (although I play one here at HotAir), and even I can see – without a whiteboard presentation – that (the numbers of incoming people + conversions to all-electric household/businesses + some unreliable minimal generation renewable power sources) – shutting down functioning, reliable, megawatt fossil fuel plants ≠ enough power when you need it.

He lists several instances of utilities being forced to apologize for blackouts, including Duke Energy, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and PJM.

The Sierra Club, a large, well-funded environmental activist group, is apparently directly involved in some of these coal plant shutdowns. Welborn points out that a major Maryland coal plant even entered an agreement with Sierra Club to shut down in order to avoid lawsuits from the green group. That particular shutdown is forecast to potentially reduced the grid reliability for more than one million electricity customers, Welborn reports.  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioner Mark Christie warned that the shut down was “potentially catastrophic.”

Such warnings are being issued more and more often, and in more urgent language, as Climate Realism has reported in previous posts detailing the so-called energy transition, here and here.

In the first linked Climate Realism post, the same FERC Commissioner, Christie, described at a House Committee hearing the danger of a too-rapid shutdown of fossil fuel infrastructure, “we’re heading for potentially very dire consequences,” and that the reason is “a shortfall of power supply[.]”

The intermittent nature of wind and solar make them bad candidates for replacing fossil fuels, a fact confirmed by utility companies and grid operators like PJM Interconnection, which recently released a report explaining that you need multiple megawatts of wind or solar to replace just 1 MW of a fossil energy source, plus battery storage.

The catch is, the needed battery storage to replace all of the Northeastern United States’ electric power plants with renewables is physically and economically impossible. A recent study (Fekete, et al.) crunched the numbers and determined that three months of electricity storage are needed, at a minimum, to make a renewables-only grid work. Battery technology to hold several months of energy does not exist, but even it if did this project alone would cost trillions. To replicate it throughout the United States would likely cost four times more than the entire Gross National Product.

These facts don’t seem to bother activists, however, because additional coal plants are being shut down with regularity, with nothing reliable, and sometimes nothing at all, to replace them. Hot Air is correct to point out these problems with green policy and the looming threat to the electric power grid. Losing electricity regularly would not just be inconvenient, it would be dangerous, deadly, and citizens and utility customers have a right to know this fact.

Linnea Lueken
Linnea Lueken
Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While she was an intern with The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a Heartland Institute Policy Brief "Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracturing."

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  1. Sierra club cute name for Useful Idiot & Stooges Group sponsored by George Soros and his ilk! These people haven’t had to work for a living just go out and protest and create havoc with no solutions other than go back to the Stone Age and become hunter/gathers again! Coal Industry has cleaned up itself tremendously but no it’s not the sun and wind and sea! I guess they’re against fire 🔥 too as they want everyone to have electric stoves! Why don’t they go back to there cave dwelling and horse and buggy era or join the Quaker’s and Amish and leave the rest of us alone!


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