ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Big Challenges In The Energy Transition
Advancing the energy transition requires an honest discussion of costs, outages and land, analysts say; The urgently needed move to net zero emissions may not be cheap or easy, engineers and operators say
Herman K. Trabish, September 20, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: There are still a lot of things that could go wrong is the energy transition is not managed right.
Recent extreme weather-driven outages around the country, and threats of more, make clear the urgent need to transition to a variable and distributed resources power system that eliminates the emissions aggravating the climate crisis, scientists agree. As California's urgent call this summer for customers' help to reduce power demand peaks showed, it is also time to acknowledge this transition's potential temporary threats to reliability and costs, power providers and system analysts are realizing.
"Many don't understand the real intricacies of grid reliability and expansion," said Mark Ahlstrom, VP for renewable energy policy with NextEra Energy Resources and NextEra Analytics, who spoke to Utility Dive as president of engineering think tank Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG).
The Biden 100% clean electricity by 2035 goal requires quadrupling the current annual rate of renewables build and sustaining that for 15 years, and "we always overestimate how much can get done in the short term," Ahlstrom said. "But I am optimistic because we also underestimate how much can get done in the long term."
Today's perceived power system stability will be transferred to a new system that "will eventually be just as stable," Georgia Institute of Technology Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Emily Grubert agreed. But meeting the challenges of the transition, when neither the present nor the new system is at full scale, "will require winning the trust of electricity users by being upfront about what's going to happen."
Studies like the Edison Electric Institute's The Road to Net Zero and Princeton University's Net Zero America detail ambitious goals. But there are already very real risks of unserved power demand for system operators in California, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest and New England moving toward those goals, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation's (NERC) May reliability assessment of North America's power system.
To avoid popular and political pushback that could impede the energy transition's success, potential costs and outages from implementing new solutions should be acknowledged, multiple analysts said… click here for more