More Grid Troubles Driven By Coal and Gas Plant Outages

Andy Johnson, Executive Director

We wrote last month about the looming potential for brownouts in the Midwest (the story was picked up by Bleeding Heartland). Our analysis showed that the potential power shortfall in a worst-case summer scenario appeared to be driven more by growing fossil fuel plant failures as by intentional coal plant closures or the variability of growing renewable energy. In fact, we suggested, Iowa regulators and utilities should be working together to quickly replace aging and uneconomical coal plants with solar and battery storage to create a more reliable, affordable, and clean grid.

Our analysis is already playing out this summer in Texas, with the same important lessons for grid operators and utilities. It is covered well the Rocky Mountain Institute (The Solution to Grid Reliability? Go Bigger and Bolder on Renewables and Energy Storage), and also in Utility Dive (Texas narrowly avoids rolling blackouts …).

Iowa is a leader in wind energy, but has very little utility scale solar and no utility scale battery storage. Solar plus storage is the combination that will stablize a renewables-heavy grid during periods of peak summer demand. We encourage Iowa policymakers and regulators to collaborate with all stakeholders in a grid reform and resource planning process to rapidly and rationally move Iowa towards the replacement of aging, unreliable fossil fuel plants with predictable, reliable renewable energy plus storage.

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