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Growing Reliability Threats

Following is a policy perspective from Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), NIPCO's nationwide trade organization. Matheson voices our cooperative reliability concerns while reaffirming our commitment to members.

Photo of Jim Matheson
Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

American families and businesses expect the lights to stay on at a cost they can afford. But that's no longer a guarantee. Nine states saw rolling blackouts last December as the demand for electricity exceeded available supply.

This is no longer a theoretical conversation. And unless policymakers change course, it's going to get worse.

In May, the EPA proposed a rule to regulate power plant emissions. This proposal will further strain America's electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation. And it is just the latest instance of EPA failing to prioritize reliable electricity as a fundamental expectation of American consumers.

It shouldn't have to be this way. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. But instead of putting down the shovel, EPA wants to bring in an excavator.

But don't just take my word for it. Warnings about the threat of reliability challenges have snowballed in recent months. The 2023 NERC summer reliability assessment recently highlighted that more of the country is at risk of blackouts than last year. And NERC says that the EPA proposal will accelerate the reliability challenges facing the nation.

In May, several FERC Commissioners warned the U.S. Senate about threats to reliable electricity. And in March, PJM CEO Manu Asthana said that the regional transmission organization needed to slow the pace of generation retirements to avoid reliability problems by the end of the decade.

America has a reliability problem. And with the help of co-op leaders across the nation, NRECA has been a leading voice in sounding the alarm on reliability. Today's energy decisions will determine if there are sufficient resources to keep the lights on tomorrow. First, lawmakers need to acknowledge the problem and identify the threats. Five issues are currently impacting the reliable delivery of electricity across the nation. They include:

  • Increasing demand for electricity as other sectors of the economy are electrified.

  • Decreasing electricity supply due to the disorderly retirement and insufficient replacement of existing generation.

  • Permitting delays that prevent new electric infrastructure from being built and connected to the grid.

  • Supply chain challenges.

  • Problems with natural gas availability.

None of these challenges will be easy to address, but we can start by asking ourselves this question: Is this what America is supposed to be? Should the threat of rolling blackouts be a permanent facet of U.S. energy policy? The answer to both of those questions is an obvious and resounding no for electric co-ops and the communities we serve.

The long-term solution requires policymakers and regulators to recognize the need for time, technology development and new transmission infrastructure. These are the essential ingredients for an energy future that prioritizes reliable electricity for all consumers, including the 42 million Americans served by electric cooperatives.


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