By Chuck Soderberg, executive vice president and general manager of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and Congressman Randy Feenstra, representing Iowa’s 4th District.
Editor's Note: NIPCO Executive Vice President and General Manager Matt Washburn adds, “NIPCO appreciates our legislative partners and statewide organization for keeping the mission-critical topic of reliability at the forefront of the decision-makers at the Federal level.”
Supply chain delays. Disorderly retirements of dispatchable electric generation. Complex regulations on power plant emissions. Regional warnings about a lack of generation capacity to cover electric demand. Permitting delays for needed electric transmission infrastructure.
Individually, any one of these issues is enough to seriously impact reliability of electric service. But all these scenarios are playing out simultaneously across the nation and a perfect storm may be on the horizon.
Electric reliability across America is in serious jeopardy, and frankly, it’s unacceptable. Here are the facts:
Dispatchable sources of electric generation like coal and nuclear are being retired far too early. And their generation capacity is being replaced by intermittent sources of generation like wind and solar. The downside: These intermittent sources only work when the wind blows and the sun shines.
Battery storage is not yet feasible for longer durations on a utility-scale level. For all practical purposes, electricity must be generated as it is being consumed. This becomes a problem when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining and energy consumption is high.
Demand for electricity continues to grow as our society becomes increasingly reliant on electricity.
Locally owned electric cooperatives work hard to provide reliable and affordable electricity for the member-consumers they serve. Co-ops are mission driven to power lives and empower communities and they make long-term decisions to ensure power is available when it’s needed.
That’s why we believe in a power generation strategy that prioritizes energy diversity. The same adage used for sound financial investing also applies to power generation: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Iowa’s electric cooperatives use dispatchable sources of power like coal and natural gas because they can control the output and ramp up generation when needed to match sudden increases in electric demand. But our ability to provide reliable electricity is in jeopardy.
In May, the Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing fossil-fuel-fired electric generating units. The proposal is part of the current administration’s misguided regulatory agenda to create a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. We believe this proposal will further strain America’s electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation.
But that’s not the only threat we face. The 2023 NERC summer reliability assessment is just the latest in a series of alarming reminders about the new electric reliability challenges facing the nation. Nine states experienced power interruptions last December as the demand for electricity exceeded the available supply.
It’s imperative that policymakers work to prioritize reliability in every energy policy discussion. Federal policies must recognize the compromised reliability reality facing the nation before it’s too late.
The families, farms and businesses served by electric cooperatives deserve affordable AND reliable electricity to power their lives.