U.S. power grid inadequate for exploiting wind and solar power

Few subjects impact the Macro economy more than current and future electric power. Not to mention the stock prices of existing local power companies whose monopolies could be threatened by a federal-run national power grid.

Why the U.S. Electric Grid Isn’t Ready for the Energy Transition

By Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer, The New York Times, June 12, 2023

To start with, there is no single U.S. electric grid. There are three — one in the West, one in the East and one in Texas — that only connect at a few points and share little power between them. Those grids are further divided into a patchwork of operators with competing interests. That makes it hard to build the long-distance power lines needed to transport wind and solar nationwide…

Thousands of wind turbines across the gusty Great Plains and acres of solar arrays across the South could create clean, low-cost electricity to power homes, vehicles and factories.

But many spots with the best sun and wind are far from cities and the existing grid. To make the plan work, the nation would need thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines — large power lines that would span multiple grid regions…

There is no single entity in charge of organizing the grid, the way the federal government oversaw the development of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and ‘60s… The kinds of longer-distance transmission lines that would transport wind and solar from remote rural areas often require the approval of multiple regional authorities, who often disagree over whether the lines are needed or who should pay for them… [end quote]

There is already “congestion” on existing lines which prevent delivery of electricity from wind and solar projects to where it is needed most. Demand is often met by more expensive fossil fuel plants closer to homes and businesses.

Some lawmakers have proposed bills that would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency that regulates interstate transmission of electricity, gas and oil, more power to approve the routes of major new lines that pass through multiple states, the way it does with gas pipelines.

That’s so reasonable that of course there is pushback against it from a variety of interests.

It’s pointless to build more renewable energy sources if the power grid can’t transmit to where it’s needed. This would seem to be an obvious first step.

This good article doesn’t hold out a lot of hope for that happening soon.



Thank you, Wendy. That NYT article fits well with the thread about higher grid costs for intermittent renewables.


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That is why a government run grid will not happen. Proposals will wither and die in a blast of “that’s COMMUNISM” propaganda, while the for-profit companies sit on their backsides and demand the government pay them to improve their systems.



WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Scott Peters and U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper shared details of their forthcoming Building Integrated Grids With Inter-Regional Energy Supply (BIG WIRES) Act. As featured in multiple national press outlets, the legislative proposal is being considered as a key component of a compromise solution to the debt ceiling impasse.

“Our electric grid is outdated and vulnerable to increasingly severe extreme weather. To ensure Americans have access to clean and reliable electricity, we must enact reforms to speed the build-out of electric transmission lines,” said Rep. Peters. “The BIG WIRES Act would ensure regions can transmit sufficient electricity between each other, making everyone more secure during heat waves, hurricanes, or other stresses on the electric grid.”

“We’re on the verge of energy abundance and independence if we can just get the energy from where it’s made to where it’s needed,” said Sen. Hickenlooper. “Wind, geothermal, nuclear. Show me a new power project in this country and I’ll show you red tape and haphazard grid planning holding us back.”

Currently, new energy projects must pay for costly interconnection upgrades – fees to connect new transmission lines to the existing grid, creating undue cost burdens on the projects themselves and increased energy prices for consumers.

Hickenlooper and Peters’ legislation would direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to better coordinate construction of an interregional transmission system to minimize such haphazard, patchwork upgrades to the grid.

The legislative proposal would cost the government no money. Instead, utilities and other transmission developers would be responsible for upgrading the grid. Because interregional transmission makes the grid operate more efficiently, money spent on new lines would be more than offset by savings on numerous smaller transmission projects.

A recently approved set of transmission lines in the Midwest is expected to deliver over twice its costs in savings and other benefits to ratepayers. The BIG WIRES Act would deliver similar or greater benefits nationwide.

More specifically, the legislation would:

  • Establish a minimum-transfer requirement, which requires regions of the country to be able to transfer at least currently 30% of their peak electrical loads with other regions.
  • Direct FERC to prioritize grid upgrades that lower costs for consumers and increase the grid’s resiliency to threats such as extreme weather and cyber- and physical attacks.
  • After an 18-month rulemaking period, gives regions two years to decide themselves how they will meet the minimum-transfer requirements, and requires them to submit plans that specify:
    • Which entities will build or implement grid upgrades.
    • Which entities will pay for the grid upgrades.
      • The bill does not change FERC’s existing cost allocation principles, meaning costs will be assigned “roughly commensurate with benefits” unless regions choose otherwise.
    • Timelines for building or implementing the grid upgrades.
    • If regions fail to submit plans which satisfy the minimum-transfer requirement by the deadline, FERC is empowered to act as a backstop and do so in their stead.
  • Denote that grid upgrades that count towards meeting the requirement can include:
    • Upgrades that increase the ability to transfer power between regions, including:
      • Interregional transmission: new interregional lines or upgrades to existing lines.
      • Regional or local transmission: new or upgraded non-interregional transmission counts to the degree that it increases the system’s ability to move power between regions.
      • Generation: new electrical generation that allows more power to flow between regions.
      • Grid-enhancing technologies that improve the operation of the current system.
      • Upgrades that lower peak demand, such as energy efficiency and demand response.

The Western Grid led by CASIO is doing a wonderful job of getting the Western operators together to share excess electricity, reduce curtailments, improve and expand transmission lines between themselves. This has resulted in cost saving in the hundreds of millions and expected to grow into tens of billions.

This report interprets the term “regional cooperation” broadly. Expanding CAISO to be a Westwide RTO is one option that has been studied, but regional cooperation can take many other forms. Some of these models have been or are being implemented already, demonstrating a general momentum towards greater regional cooperation.
• Some regional cooperation is already taking place through existing joint operating agreements, power pooling arrangements, and bilateral contracting platforms such as the Western Systems Power Pool and Intercontinental Exchange.
• Since 2014, CAISO has operated a voluntary real-time Western Energy Imbalance Market(WEIM), which has saved participants more than $3 billion.4
• On Feb. 10, 2023, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the Western Resource Adequacy Program, a cooperative arrangement for sharing reserves and reducing the cost of resource adequacy.
• Also in February 2023, the CAISO board approved measures to implement an Extended DayAhead Market (EDAM) that utilities may choose to join without becoming full CAISO members.


Eating some crow turns out the debt ceiling bill did nothing for the electric grid.

All this means is more people will care about the environment and the government picking up college loans etc…than about tax breaks for billionaires while stupid thinks the lottery will make him a billionaire.

I want people to care much more about life than an ignorant misguided tax cut.

And in news from Germany…

One reason is that there is not enough electricity available due to a lack of grid expansion, Vonovia CEO Rolf Buch said.


I wouldn’t be too pessimistic. This is the nature of transitions, they are messy and often painful. It is like puberty. There is a lot of angst, hormones, and the occasional zit that all must happen to move from one stage of life to another.

We have a grid system developed for over a century to accommodate centralized fossil fuel plants. We are now trying to transition that grid within a generation to use decentralized renewables. Not an easy task but now possible because the economics is increasingly favoring renewables. When one considers all costs, including externalities like health and pollution, the shift to renewables is an economic inevitability.

Modernizing the grid is something that had to happen eventually, if only to make our energy supply more resilient to severe weather and bad actors. To put the cost of this grid modernization all on renewables is frankly disingenuous. It is really a matter of national security. It is about creating an energy infrastructure that is resilient to natural disasters and an increasingly sophisticated cyberthreat.

This is understood at the federal:


and private citizen levels:


@btresist gladly agree, the utility companies may have some obstacles and less federal support than we want but the buildout goes on. The more regional industrialists need the utilities, the industrialists can make demands.

Not all, of course, but the grid-level costs of renewables are at least an order of magnitude greater than those of dispatchable technologies. This includes things such as frequency control, stabilization, grid extension and grid connection. Offshore wind is the most obvious example when it comes to connection costs, but in general renewables are more diffuse.

The cost of transmission increases with distance. In addition (because of fixed costs) the size of a power plant and its load factor are also important factors. Large dispatchable power plants have have the advantage in these respects and lower connection costs per MWh.


But overall costs of renewables is less than any other power generation source.


Focus on the grid here.


anything to get it wrong?

:rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

LOL! We have roundly beaten the grid to death. The proposed new legislation will greatly eliminate the grid problems. In the mean time most new generation is stuck in the muck.


I think you have a strange take on the concept of a federal-run national power grid. This concept would not eliminate local power companies, but it would make their operations more efficient along with cost savings to ratepayers.


An inverter-based resource (IBR ) is a source of electricity that is asynchronously connected to the electrical grid via an electronic power converter. Devices in this category include variable renewable energy generators (wind, solar) and battery storage.

Every year NERC puts out a Summer Reliability Assessment. From last month we read:
Unexpected tripping of wind and solar PV resources during grid disturbances continues to be a reliability concern. NERC has analyzed multiple large-scale disturbances on the BPS that involved widespread loss of inverter-based resources (IBR). In 2021 and 2022, the Texas Interconnection experienced widespread IBR loss events, like those previously observed in the California area. Similarly, four additional solar PV loss events occurred between June and August 2021 in California. In 2022, ERCOT required GOs to submit mitigation plans, and corrective measures are being implemented in 2023. In March 2023, NERC issued the Inverter-Based Resource Performance Issues Alert to GOs of Bulk Electric System (BES) solar PV generating resources.”

and in Texas
System stability and strength stemming from the growth of IBRs remains a concern. ERCOT is also experiencing large increases in renewable production curtailments due to transmission constraints, and these curtailments are increasingly occurring at solar PV sites.”



If you are trying to do a cost/benefit analysis one has to look at both costs and benefits. With respect to renewables you seem to only want to look at the former.

No doubt it will take a large investment to modify the existing grid for renewables. But, the end result will be a grid that is far more resilient to widespread outages and far more secure from cyber attacks than the status quo. Both those benefits have a value that should be added to the analysis. The economic benefits of reduced outages alone probably will be in the tens of billions per year. A decade probably pays back the cost of the initial investment.

Renewables facilitate distributed energy generation, which makes microgrids possible. With more electricity being made locally via solar panels on roofs, electric transmission distances will decline thereby reducing energy losses. In addition, Microgrids are able to function independently, greatly reducing the likelihood of widespread outages due to weather or cyber-terrorism. A smart grid will allow the microgrids to also interact and share electricity, thereby reducing energy costs. The variability of wind and solar means that one has to build overcapacity to account for less than optimal conditions. This means there is a lot of redundancy in the system, which also makes it more resilient. Now add to this the added security of not being dependent on fossil fuel imports from places like Russia and the whims of OPEC.

To create a grid with similar resiliency and security using fossil fuels would likely also be extremely expensive. The few Microgrids currently existing indicates that this model isn’t economically viable with fossil fuels and redundancy would require many coal/gas plants running at less than full efficiency. One would essentially have to build a backup grid. And there are still all those externalities you don’t want to talk about like water use, pollution, global warming.


“Self-contained microgrids that disconnect from the central system to divert energy during extreme events can also give utilities greater flexibility as they seek to prevent major damage, respond to outages, and restore power. The US government has allocated $1.3 billion to install microgrids in Puerto Rico. Similarly, in California, the federal government has partnered with a developer to test the use of microgrid technology for future housing projects. The homes will operate on solar power and capture excess electricity generated during the day for later use. They will also connect to a self-contained power system that can operate independently of California’s grid and have access to a “community battery” that provides additional power during outages. Some homeowners will have the option to use their electric vehicles to power their homes.”


I was going to say these are power to implement and subsidies


The law that past does not seem to help alternative energy…per nyt

What law that passed does not seem to help alternative energy?

I was discussing the proposed legislation by Representative Scott Peters and U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper shared details of their forthcoming Building Integrated Grids With Inter-Regional Energy Supply (BIG WIRES) Act. As featured in multiple national press outlets, the legislative proposal is being considered as a key component of a compromise solution to the debt ceiling impasse.


The industrialist want it, see when it happens. It sets up pressure if it does not get passed.