Tens of Millions of Americans at Risk of Winter Power Blackouts, Grid Emergencies: Report

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Large swaths of North America could face blackouts or other emergencies during extreme cold during the 2022–23 winter due to fewer natural gas and coal supplies, said the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

A report from NERC, a U.S. regulatory body that manages grid stability, said that power grids in Texas, the Carolinas, New England, and the Midwest, are at the most risk of power supply shortfalls during periods of elevated demand.

According to the NERC report (pdf), a large portion of the North American [bulk-power system] is “at risk of insufficient electricity supplies during peak winter conditions.” It added that “higher peak-demand projections, inadequate generator weatherization, fuel supply risks, and natural gas infrastructure are contributing to risks seen” in the aforementioned U.S. regions.

“The trend is we see more areas at risk, we see more retirements of critical generation, fuel challenges and we are doing everything we can,” John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment, told Bloomberg News. “These challenges don’t kind of appear out of nowhere.”

Moura and other operators told Bloomberg that during extreme weather or cold periods during the upcoming winter, a quarter of all Americans could face blackout risks.

Jim Matheson, chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, added to the news outlet that demand for power will exceed the “available supply during peak winter conditions, consumers face an inconceivable but real threat of rolling blackouts.”

Matheson then warned that “it doesn’t have to be this way, but absent a shift in state and federal energy policy, this is a reality we will face for years to come.”

“There is a very real possibility that New England could be facing a dire set of consequences this winter,” noted James Danly, a commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, on Thursday.

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