When the electricity fizzles and the lights go out at a time when they are needed most, the good people in charge of a critical energy grid operating across state lines will not be in position to help anyone except historians.
Policymakers who have embraced so-called renewable energy in the name of climate change ought to take a hard look at the projections included in the most recent report from PJM Interconnection, which operates the electric transmission system in the Northeast, Western, and mid-Atlantic regions.
Green activists from inside and outside the Biden White House are already having a deleterious impact on America’s energy posture.
Unfortunately, the report’s findings have been drowned out by the climate change activism flowing out of the Biden White House that prioritizes federal power grabs over scientific and economic realities. The supply-and-demand calculus that sits at the center of PJM’s clarion calls demonstrates that renewable capacity cannot be added at a sufficient pace to replace the forced retirement of fossil fuel plants.
What PJM describes as emerging “imbalances” are in fact pending shortages and blackouts that will result from the inability of politically fashionable but unreliable energy sources to match the nation’s rising demands.
The critical cutoff period comes in 2030, according to the report. That’s when PJM’s reserve margin, the amount of spare power supplies available during peak demand periods, is expected to fall to 15 percent — a precipitous drop from where it is now, about 26 percent. For the moment, PJM has the capacity to generate a surplus of power because of the fossil fuel generating fleet that is in place. This surplus is often exported to neighboring states when they experience power shortages, but that won’t be the case in 2030 under current trendlines. The closure of natural gas and coal plants in the PJM states will have a ripple effect throughout the entire country.
Dan Kish, a senior fellow with the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a Washington-based nonprofit that supports free market policies, views the PJM report as a “cry for help” and as a warning to political figures who are undercutting American energy.
“When you take away full-time reliable sources and replace them with unstable renewables, you need something to back these renewable sources and the higher costs of electricity begin to roll,” Kish said.
“The report from PJM is foreboding,” he continued, “but will the political class wake up to the supply-and-demand problem they’ve created with fossil fuel plants shutting down faster than they can be replaced with renewables?”
President Joe Biden has committed the nation to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 50–52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030 while working toward a “100% carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.” Biden has also called for a “whole-of-government approach” toward what he describes as the “climate crisis” that involves federal agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which regulates PJM.
The commission is charged with the stated mission of providing consumers with “reliable, safe, secure, and economically efficient energy services at a reasonable cost through appropriate regulatory and market means, and collaborative efforts.” But correspondence obtained by IER through Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits show that FERC commissioners are not operating on behalf of ratepayers but are instead taking their marching orders from green activist groups.
IER has pulled in emails, Zoom calls, Zoom chats, Microsoft Teams chats, text messages, calendar records, and phone bills that highlight the oversized influence of outfits like the Natural Resources Defense Council, a highly litigious group out of New York with more than $180 million in assets, and the Energy Foundation, a multimillion left-of-center “grantmaking” institution based in San Francisco. Because FERC has latitude to say yeah or nay to new natural gas pipelines, the relationship between the commissioners and outside groups opposed to the pipelines should concern Americans who depend on affordable, reliable energy.
Kish points to alarming figures that suggest green activists from inside and outside the Biden White House are already having a deleterious impact on America’s energy posture.
Electricity prices were up 14 percent nationwide last year at a time when the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the least amount of U.S. interstate natural gas pipeline capacity on record was added.
“This is what the green activists are trying to do,” Kish said. “Drive up prices so people use less energy. There’s also the added problem we have with a cottage industry of shareholder lawsuits poised to go after businesses that propose new industrial production sites. What the politicians have planned is going to lead to shortages of electricity. If you don’t have natural gas pipelines, you won’t be able to feed these plants. We are talking about an all-out assault on American energy and the bill is coming due soon.”
PJM was first established in 1927 “as a power pool of three utilities” for customers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but when two Maryland utilities were added in 1956, it evolved into the Pennsylvania–New Jersey–Maryland Interconnection. PJM now includes Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
PJM will not be in position to suddenly reverse course come 2030 if the forced transition to renewables remains in motion. Since the sun must shine and the wind must blow for green energy contraptions to work, they are inherently intermittent. PJM makes it clear that it has “no authority” to order reliable fossil fuel to continue operating. But it can hit the rewind button and point to its February 2023 analysis of “resource retirements, replacements, and risks” as a harbinger of America’s decline and China’s rise.
China has “the corner on the market for rare earth minerals that are used to manufacture renewable energy,” Kish explains.
He cites two new reports, which show that China is set to greatly expand its control of the global cobalt supply while also accelerating its lithium extraction from mining operations in Africa.
“The cost of minerals for all these renewables is also going up because there aren’t enough mines in the world, and all the Western governments are pushing the same button and the Chinese are messing with the dials,” Kish said. “At some point our political leaders are going to have to recognize what they’ve wrought.”
Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with free market think tanks associated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. He has also written for the Daily Caller, the Washington Times, Washington Examiner, NetRightDaily.com, and NewsBusters.
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