Keeping the U.S. Electric Grid Stable and Affordable – Model Legislation

There have been many reports and warnings of electric shortages across the country. Particularly in Californiaand Texas that have added significant amounts of part-time weather dependent wind and solar.

Electric grids can store no power on their own. Industrial batteries are awfully expensive and hold little power at the grid scale. This means that we have to have and pay for full time power all the time.

There are those that believe, wrongly, that we can have an electric grid that runs completely on the part-time undependable wind and solar. The problem is that no matter how many millions of solar panels you have when the sunsets they produce no electricity at all. They also produce extraordinarily little the first hour and last hour of the day.

Typically, the peak demand, when most electricity is needed, is from 5 to 9 when people get home from work and school and go about their business at home. Solar does little or nothing to satisfy these peak periods.

The wind only blows some of the time, and wind turbines produce little or no energy 70% of the time. Europe learned this fact the hard way. All of 2021 had low wind production across Europe. The wind simply wasn’t blowing as much as it did the years before. Wind also takes breaks for days at time. And has the problematic habit of not producing when it is extremely hot or very cold, when electricity is needed the most. 

No matter how many wind towers are built. When the wind isn’t blowing they produce no power. Hence the need to have enough full-time power generation which is natural gas, coal and nuclear generated. Yes, there is some hydroelectric, but there aren’t many places for new dams. 

MISO, the organization that manages electricity supply for 14 states and Manitoba, serving about 42 million people has admitted that the likelihood of electricity shortages which will last into the future. The attribute this to closing too many coal plants without full time power to replace them.

Legislators should be looking out for all of us to make sure that we have affordable, reliable, full-time electricity without having to worry about blackouts.

This is model legislation that states could pass to ensure that before any more electric plants are closed down, there is enough electricity to meet their citizen’s needs.

Summary: AN ACT relating to preserving reliable and affordable electricity.

Policy:

Section 1: The [name of state] finds that:

  1. American families and American industries depend on reliable and affordable electricity for everything they do, from lifesaving medical equipment to lifesaving building climate control;
  2. electricity demand must be met with electricity supply within minutes, or else interruptions of service result;
  3. 240 coal plants, which produced 22% of American electricity in 2021, are being targeted for closure by activist groups, state and federal regulators, and utilities, with dozens across the nation slated for closure in the upcoming three years;
  4. 71,000 wind towers produced 9% of American electricity in 2021, about 6,000 are added per year – at least 150,000 more are needed to replace coal generation, and battery storage is needed for the 70% of the time wind produces little or no energy;
  5. solar produced less than 3% of American electricity in 2021, and only produces electricity when the sun shines; 
  6. the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) has warned that large swathes of the United States face elevated risks of electricity shortfalls this summer and in future years;
  7. restricting the supply of electricity without immediate substitutes jeopardizes reliability and affordability and will cause interruptions of service, often when needed most, when it is the hottest or coldest;
  8. restricting the supply of electricity without immediate substitutes only serves to raise prices on consumers and businesses, profoundly impacting the poorest among us;
  9. rising electricity prices and decreased reliability will contribute to inflation;
  10. because of natural gas shortages, European nations have brought “mothballed” coal plants back online; and 
  11. our coal plants, if closed, should be preserved to provide flexibility for national security in times of war, economic security, supply security, price stability, and reliability.

Model Bill: Electric generation facility closures; presumption; commission review.

(a)  As used in this section:

(i)  “Dispatchable” means a source of electricity that is available for use on demand and that can be dispatched upon request of a power grid operator or that can have its power output adjusted, according to market needs, except for routine maintenance or repairs;

(ii)  “Reliable” means a source of electricity that is not subject to intermittent availability, except for routine maintenance or repairs;

(iii)  “Electric generation facility” means a facility that uses water (dams), coal, natural gas, or nuclear to generate reliable or dispatchable electricity for provision to customers;

(iv)  “Premature retirement” or “retirement” or “retired” means the closure of or the complete and permanent cessation of operations at an electric generation facility before the planned operational life of the facility has elapsed, unless mandated by federal law.  

(b)  Before authorizing or approving the retirement of an electric generation facility as proposed in a rate case, integrated resource plan or other submission to the commission, the commission shall consider the effect on available reliable and/or dispatchable electricity to customers and the impact that any shortage of available reliable and/or dispatchable energy nationwide may have on customers. 

(c)  There shall be a rebuttable presumption against the retirement of an electric generation facility. The commission shall not approve the retirement of an electric generation facility unless the presumption created by this subsection is rebutted by evidence to establish that:

(i)  Cost savings will result to customers as a result of the retirement of the electric generation facility;

(ii)  The retirement will not result in an insufficient amount of reliable and/or dispatchable capacity to serve customers; and

(iii)  The retirement will not adversely impact the availability or reliability of electric service to customers of the public utility.

(d)  Rate recovery limitations shall apply to a public utility that completes a retirement of an electric generation facility without rebutting the presumption specified in this section.

(e) Electric generation facilities subject to(iv) shall be preserved for future use, unless they have reached the end of their remaining useful life. Continued preservation shall be reviewed and evaluated every five (5) years. 

(f) The commission will not approve the retiring of any electrical generation facilities if their replacements are deemed to be more detrimental to the environment than existing facilities.  This would include the disruption of large areas of critical habitat, negative impacts on threatened or endangered wildlife, stresses to local watersheds, intervention of toxic materials into wilderness areas, or other ecological harms of a similar nature.

NOTE: (e) is needed for economic and national security reasons. Europe has put many “mothballed” coal generation facilities back online because of the fuel emergency they are experiencing.

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Frank Lasee served Wisconsinites as a State Senator and in Governor Scott Walker’s administration. The district he represented had a lot of electricity generation, coal, natural gas, 2 nuclear plants, biogas, biodigesters, wind towers, and now a solar plant. Frank is an expert on energy and environmental issues. His articles have appeared in the Washington Examiner, Washington Post, Real Clear Energy, he has been a guest on TV and radio news. He has spoken to more than 15,000 people in large and small groups. Find more of his work at www.truthinenergyandclimate.com.