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The power grid and power supply are facing many obstacles this summer, and an emergency backup power solution is more critical than ever. Now is the time to act if your business needs a generator or UPS system to maintain operations during a power outage.

NERC’s 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment warns that several regions in North America are at high or elevated risk of power outages this summer due to above-normal temperatures and drought conditions forecast in the western half of Canada and the United States.

NERC President and CEO Discusses Some Key Factors of the Risk Assessment

In a recent podcast, NERC President and CEO Jim Robb spoke in detail about the NERC’s 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment and discussed the supply chain challenges facing the electrical industry.

He outlined the weather outlook and transformation of the grid as crucial factors in network reliability risk assessment.

Weather Outlook

The NERC CEO highlighted that “Weather is significant and looking at what was projected for the summer, and pretty similar forecast from the Canadian counterpart U.S will be experiencing hotter than normal temperatures across most of the western two-thirds of the country also in the Northeast.”

Another issue about the weather outlook is the persistent drought conditions across the western United States and Western Canada.

As drought conditions in the Missouri River Basin continue, production from thermal generators that use the Missouri River for cooling in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) could be affected during the summer months. Low water levels in the river can affect generators through cooling and lead to reduced generating output capacity.

The river’s electricity production from hydro generators may also be affected by drought conservation measures implemented in the storage system. Outages and reduced thermal and hydroelectric output can lead to power shortfalls during peak demand.

Transformation of the Grid

According to NERC, managing the Grid’s transformation and the quick shift in the resource mix will be the main reliability concern over the next ten years.

These conclusions result from NERC’s 2021 Long-Term Reliability Assessment (LTRA), which urges more cooperation between the natural gas and power sectors as stakeholders and decision-makers work to ensure the dependability of the electricity grid during this transitional period.

The North American bulk energy system is undergoing a significant transformation. Still, it must be able to meet these challenges and continue to provide reliable power service, according to an assessment released on Dec. 23 by the North American Reliability Corporation.

The ongoing transformation in the traditional energy system is marked by the growth in new natural gas, wind, and solar resources as old nuclear and fossil fuel generation sources are phased out.

Nuclear power plants and coal face challenges in competitive wholesale markets, where natural gas or wind power generation often sets prices. The resulting low energy prices have forced the early retirement of coal and nuclear resources across the US.

According to the NERC research, a large switch to natural gas production could increase the vulnerability of the bulk power system to disruptions or decreases in natural gas supply and transmission, mainly if a new pipeline capacity is not purchased to replace the existing one.

NERC recommends several areas of interest to the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO), policymakers, and stakeholders. Among them, they suggest;

  • The development of flexible resources is sufficient to support increasing levels of variable generation uncertainty.
  • Improve cooperation between the industries producing electricity and natural gas
  • Rethink the regulatory structure and oversight of natural gas supply for the production of electricity
  • Focus attention on energy sufficiency, knowing that capacity alone does not ensure reliability unless the fuel behind it is guaranteed, even in extreme weather conditions
  • Ensure that distributed energy resources are sufficiently integrated into the planning and operations of the bulk power system
  • Ensure that planning studies and operating models accurately account for new inverter-based resources.

Several concerns that could affect reliability during the summer

  1. Supply chain issues and start-up challenges for a new resource and transmission project are issues in areas where reliability must be ensured during peak summer periods. NERC CEO said, “WECC-CA/MX and WECC-SRSG have a significant production capacity in development and are included in their summer resource projections.”
  2. In order to reduce transmission bottlenecks and preserve system stability while the grid’s electrical system adjusts to the next generation’s rapid population rise, transmission expansion projects are currently underway in ERCOT. The transmission system may become congested or less able to handle localized loads due to transmission project cancellations or delays, the NERC cautioned.
  3. Due to tight supply chains, coal generators struggle to obtain fuel and non-combustible consumables. However, coal reserves at power plants are relatively low compared to historical levels. Some owners and operators report difficulties arranging replenishment due to mine closures, rail transport limitations, and increased coal exports.
  4. Electricity and other critical infrastructure sectors face cybersecurity threats from Russia and other potential actors amid rising geopolitical tensions and persistent cyber risks. Russian attackers could plan or attempt malicious cyber activities to access and disrupt the North American power grid in retaliation for support to Ukraine.
  5. Unexpected solar photovoltaic (PV) resource tripping during grid disturbances remains a reliability issue. In May and June 2021, Texas Grid experienced widespread solar PV losses, such as those previously observed in the California region. Additionally, four other solar PV loss events occurred in California between June and August 2021.

During these events, the large-scale loss of solar PV resources was also coupled with the loss of synchronous generation, unintended interactions with corrective action plans, and specific distributed energy resource triggers.

System operators in regions with significant amounts of solar photovoltaic resources should be aware of the potential for events and resource loss during network disruptions, according to NERC, as the industry “takes urgent action to address system reliability issues” through modeling, planning, and interconnection procedures.

Conclusion

NERC develops its independent assessments to detect potential vulnerabilities to the reliability of the bulk electricity system. The annual Summer Reliability Assessment by NERC assesses whether resources and the transmission system are adequate to handle anticipated summer peak demand.

For them to be better prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure the dependability of the bulk power system, it is meant to provide information to industry leaders, planners, operators, and regulatory agencies.

If you want to make sure your business is compliant with the NERC requirements, ITEGRITI can help you assess your current status and recommend ways to improve your situation.

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