Electric Grid Reliability at Risk by 2030, PJM Says

Source: Bacon’s Rebellion.

Intermittence is the deadliest sin of electrical generation from renewable energy sources. Thankfully, Virginia’s electricity provider is aware of the risks and is telling us about them:

  • The growth rate of electricity demand is likely to continue to increase from electrification coupled with the proliferation of high-demand data centers in the region.
  • Thermal generators are retiring at a rapid pace due to government and private sector policies as well as economics.
  • Retirements are at risk of outpacing the construction of new resources, due to a combination of industry forces, including siting and supply chain, whose long-term impacts are not fully known.
  • PJM’s interconnection queue is composed primarily of intermittent and limited-duration resources. Given the operating characteristics of these resources, we need multiple megawatts of these resources to replace 1 MW of thermal generation.

The last bullet is the one that best illustrates the folly of trying to produce civilization-grade electricity from wind and solar technology. It _can_ be done, technically speaking, but not in any optimal way.

32 thoughts on “Electric Grid Reliability at Risk by 2030, PJM Says

    1. There are no problems so large that they cannot be addressed with other people’s money.

      Dominion’s profit margin is dictated by law. Those “investments” must come from ratepayers.


      1. “There are no problems so large that they cannot be addressed with other people’s money.”

        Please explain the distinction you see betwee federal investments in the grid versus federal investments in the highway system. Or just admit you went to you other people’s money bullshit without thinking.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. “The grid is privately owned.”

            Not entirely. And all of it is subject to government regulation.

            The real point is that the grid and the network are every bit as essential to the nation’s economy as was the state of the roads when Ike launched the Interstate Highways.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. And we need 3 to 4 times as much of it to use wind and solar as we need with a mix of nuclear and natural gas.

            Would you repaint the lanes on the interstates to make the lanes 30 feet wide, and then build more highways to make up for the reduced capacity?

            It is simply wasteful to continue down the wind and solar path for more than 20% of our energy, which will make no measurable difference at all to the climate.


          3. “And we need 3 to 4 times as much of it to use wind and solar as we need with a mix of nuclear and natural gas.”

            Maybe we are using different terminology. By the grid I am referring to the transmission and distribution infrastructure. It needs to be more robust and better interconnected. Maybe you are including the power plants when you refer to the grid? With that said I have no ideas what your “3 to 4 times” figure refers to?

            I will not try to talk you out of your disdain for renewable energy but only note that fossil fuel is finite and increasingly expensive while solar, geothermal and wind is unlimited and increasingly less expensive. We are already passing the point where new capacity of renewables is less expensive than new fossil fuel capacity – especially coal-based.



            Liked by 1 person

          4. Those comparisons rely heavily on subsidies and mandates. Absent the government thumb on the scale, coal and natural gas remain much cheaper.

            Relying on intermittent wind and solar requires a great deal more grid capacity.

            The idea behind it is that when the wind isn’t blowing, maybe the sun will be shining, and if not here, someplace else. That means instead of having to carry electricity from a power plant 30 miles away it might have to come from a wind farm 1000 miles away where the wind is blowing. And, that wind farm will have to be big enough to power its local needs and carry other areas when their power is down, and, of course, those other area will have to have the capacity to reciprocate.

            The transmission and surplus capacity required will cost 3 to 4 times what we need for traditional power generation and transmission.


          5. “Those comparisons rely heavily on subsidies and mandates. Absent the government thumb on the scale, coal and natural gas remain much cheaper.”

            Didn’t read the article did you? LOL!

            The studies comparing replacing coal plants found that 72% of coal-fired plants could be more economically replaced with renewables and batteries than continuing to operate them. That was BEFORE the Inflation Reduction Act which increased that figure to 99%.

            Without quibbling about specifics the trends are clear – fossil energy costing more to produce, green energy costs moving down.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. Your second link was paywalled and that was not in the first.

            But the Inflation “Reduction” Act is not the first layer of subsidy. They are already heavily subsidized through mandates. The RGGI, for example, requires coal and natural gas plants to purchase carbon credits which artificially add to their costs.

            Absent subsidies and mandates, they don’t even come close, especially when you count the cost of redundancy.


          7. “Absent subsidies and mandates, they don’t even come close, especially when you count the cost of redundancy.”

            Because you say so?

            Sorry, I know where you get most of your “facts.”

            The fact is the economics of green energy are getting better every day while that of coal and even natural gas are getting worse.

            Liked by 1 person

          8. “OK, here’s a good analysis of generation alone”

            It being on a fossil fuel funded site I am immediately doubtful of its objectivity. But overall I found it interesting and informative. But I did notice a few points that I believe are a little bit over stated.

            1. He goes to great lengths talk about the expense of a technology that is not deployed – sun tracking solar panels. The real issue is how much does tracking increase output versus fixed panels. It undoubtedly is a known measure which he did not share. The point being whatever it is, you can make up for it by investing in more of the stationary panels to get the desired output. And without all those fragile mechanisms the capital cost and operating cost would be comparable or less.
            2. He disputes the capacity % claimed for wind (~40%) and solar (30%) and in fact that is the heart of his argument. He uses “real world data” to prove his point. The problem I see is that the real world data is 4 years out of date and does not reflect the ongoing advances in technology and design. Is it really unreasonable to say that a solar plant can produce 30% of the nameplate. After all, in our latitudes the average daytime is north of 50% of the 24 hour cycle.

            3. Redundancy which he emphazizes is a cost but it can be dealt with through a more robust grid to move power to where it is needed from where it can be produced and emerging power station battery technologies.

            Finally, FWIW, I think the real future for photovoltaics is not at the central stations being discussed but as the roof on your new home where it can already produce a very high percentage of the electricity you will need for you house and your car.

            Liked by 1 person

          9. I think the point on tracking systems is that the cost and maintenance requirements are prohibitive and we should not count those systems.

            The length of daylight and wind patterns have not materially changed in 4 years and won’t in the foreseeable future.

            Redundancy is a very big issue.
            It is in a prolonged period of unfavorable weather that we need power the most.

            A system that keeps you warm 90% of the time isn’t going to cut it when there is a really bad winter storm that lasts a week.


          10. “DO you propose donating taxpayer money to the owners, or seizing the means of production?”

            The Democratic approach has been various subsidies and incentives to encourage the investments needed. As far as I can tell the MAGA Republicans have no idea what to do. Hope for the best, I suppose.

            Liked by 1 person

          11. “The Rational approach is to let the market rule without subsidies.”

            No, it is not. Ther rational approach is kickstart the technologies and investments that are needed to produce clean renewable energy sooner rather than later. Your faith in markets is not rational when there are countless examples of markets failing badly in a wide array of areas of human activity.

            Liked by 1 person

          12. “Senator Kennedy (LA) asks the critical questions”

            Senator Kennedy is the master of the gotcha question. This one of those. There is no way that anyone can answer the question as posed. It is simplistic beyond measure. What “cost” is he asking about? If I spend $30K to buy an electric vehicle is THAT part of the “cost?” What about the gasoline car I didn’t buy? Does that reduce the “cost?” Same question with regard to the renewable power plant – is the fossil plant I didn’t build a reduction of the “cost?” And so on.

            And, as one of the victims tried to interject NOBODY can know or even estimate the technology improvements and their impact over the time frame of the question.

            Liked by 1 person

          13. Louisiana has a history of colorful Senators.

            Did you listen to the end?

            The experts did agree on an approximate cost of $50TRILLION over the next 25 years. But the important question was the last,

            How much would temperature be abated if the US and everyone else participated but China and India did not. For that they had no answer, as there would be no measurable difference.


          14. “The experts did agree on an approximate cost of $50TRILLION”

            No they didn’t. Under pressure to say something one of them pulled that figure out of the ether.

            The last question was a dodge. We are responsible for what WE do. Not what others don’t do.

            The fatal flaw in all your prattle is the postulate that we will be worse off the more we rely on renewable energy. That is not the slam dunk you think it is.

            Liked by 1 person

          15. There is only one atmosphere.

            What we do in isolation absent buy in from China and India doesn’t mean a damn thing.

            It does us no good to destroy our economy just to move manufacturing to China.

            If we blow $50Trillion for no effect, what are we going to use to pay for adaptation?


          16. RE: “The Rational approach is to let the market rule without subsidies.”

            That, at least, would give the engineers a chance to weigh in. Still, the physics of wind and solar power is not favorable. Nor is the climate science compelling for the transition to wind and solar.

            That leaves the politicians, who are apparently immune to common sense or might be looking to make a buck using public funds to force wind and solar power into use.


          17. “Still, the physics of wind and solar power is not favorable.”

            That is the opposite of the truth. In the absence of a perpetual motion machine to provide energy the closest that physics has to offer is radiation from the nuclear fires of the sun.

            Liked by 1 person

          18. “If we use Thorium and Breeder reactors . . .”

            One thing we can agree on. I believe nuclear energy is an important part of the replacement of fossil fuels. With that said, I do not trust for-profit businesses to run them anywhere near where people live. I would like to see nuclear energy farms sited in remote places with close access to deep wells for spent or dangerous materials. And again, a far more robust grid to move the energy produced to where it is needed.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. Grid reliability falls on the owners of the grid. In VA, that would be Dominion. Instead of paying ALL possible profits to shareholders, a little bit of grid resilience planning would help.

    And the opinions of those who believe that killing the planet and not using the best minds available through research and development can get generation to an “optimal way.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You didn’t read the article, did you?

      With the requirement for EVs, in addition to already expected data center growth, the demand for electricity is going to continue to grow. At the same time, mandated replacement of reliable thermal generators with intermittent wind and solar will require 3 to 4 times the stated capacity plus massive battery backup.

      The cost would be many times Dominion’s profits. The only way to meet those costs would be much more expensive electricity. Using your EV will wind up costing more than $5 gasoline.

      Now, if you are extremely wealthy, that doesn’t sting too much, but the middle class is going to have to choose between driving to work and heating the house. Forget air conditioning, that will only be for the elite.


    2. RE: “Grid reliability falls on the owners of the grid. In VA, that would be Dominion.”

      Not exactly. Dominion generates electricity, but the electrical transmission grid of which Virginia is a part is managed by a “regional transmission organization” called PJM Interconnection LLC. It is a PJM report that is calling attention to the trends (the four bullets in the post) that pose risks to grid resiliancy in Virginia.

      You might say that Dominion is causing part of the problem that PJM is worried about, because Dominion is retiring thermal plants at a faster rate than new construction can replace their generation capacity.

      RE: “Instead of paying ALL possible profits to shareholders, a little bit of grid resilience planning would help.”

      It is hard to see how the diversion of profits is a problem. PJM doesn’t say so, but notes that green policies enforced by government are contributing to the rapid retirement of thermal generators.


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