The push for renewable energy sources is here to stay. However, is it leading to an impending energy crisis? With the Biden administration pushing ever harder for renewable sources, companies are being forced to remove Coal Power Plants from production and replace them. The problem is that it is not working,
For almost 100 years the US Electrical System has been the envy of the world. We produced cheap reliable energy for millions of homes. Power outages and black or brownouts were virtually unheard of. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), only about 60,000 homes in the US do not have electricity1. Compare that to some third-world countries like Sudan in which only 7.2% of the population HAS electricity. To say we and the majority of the developed world take electricity for granted is a gross understatement. As a matter of fact, the only time the electrical grid makes news is when power is NOT available. But that is changing.
Today, with the push for renewable energy, brownouts, and blackouts are projected to become more and more probable. According to the NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) Reliability Assessment for 2021, the removal of reliable energy sources such as coal and natural gas and replacing them with renewable sources could result in energy shortfalls by 2024-2025.
The problem isn’t that renewables can’t provide for the retirement of coal power plants. It is that we are replacing a tried and tested constant energy resource with one that is at best intermittent. As NERC states in the energy reliability assessment, “energy risks are present today as electricity resources are insufficient to manage the risk of load loss when wide-area heat events occur. Risk is most acute in the late afternoon since there are energy limitations as solar photovoltaic (PV) resource output diminishes.”2 Trying to replace the stable on-demand coal generation sources with renewable energy has been a fool’s errand.
We are seeing these results today as well. For instance, at the end of November 2022 in the United Kingdom, wind power went from generating 16 GW of power to 0.4 GW in a day and a half. That is equivalent to 15 large coal plants. In Germany, these wild swings and prolonged moments of debilitatingly uncooperative weather are called the “dunklefaluten,” or dark doldrums. Renewable power there can swing from meeting 75 percent of the nation’s power to just 15 percent overnight.3
As we saw in Germany, which tried to close down all of its 84 coal plants and replace it with renewable energy – it could not. The Ukrainian crisis brought a fuel crisis to Germany that they were not able to overcome with renewables. Long demonized by Germany’s Green party, which leads some of the government’s top ministries, coal was set to be phased out by 2030, but Russia’s war with Ukraine and gas export curbs, brought coal back into favor. Gas generation rose slightly, despite high prices, as wind and hydropower output were low, and domestic nuclear output also fell in July-Sept.4
As the Las Vegas Review-Journal states, “One would hope our elected leaders would recognize, address, and fix this issue, but sadly just the opposite is true, as the administration has aligned itself with the green-energy zealots to unleash a self-titled “suite of regulations” to push the nation’s remaining coal capacity off the grid. This means erasing a resource that meets more than 50 percent of the nation’s power, is the leading source of electricity generation in 15 states, and does the heavy lifting during periods of peak energy demand during the bitter cold. The coal fleet is an invaluable price shock absorber that has shielded consumers from soaring natural gas prices, a direct result of the global energy crisis and America’s newfound role as the world’s largest liquified natural gas exporter.”5
Can we reverse this trend? It is unlikely because once a coal power plant is removed from service it is cost prohibitive and virtually impossible to place it back on service. How short-sighted is this? At current consumption levels, there are enough coal reserves in the US to last for the next 435 years!6 We can clean coal up. We have the technology. Renewable Energy is simply not the answer at the level of technology so far.