Monday, October 13, 2014

New York Times reports on growing inefficiency of electricity grids

The New York Times steps towards recognizing the problems of intermittent energy systems.
A journey of a thousand miles begins...

How Grid Efficiency Went South -
Solar panels and especially wind turbines produce vast amounts of energy, but on their own schedule, when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. The more conventional installations — coal, natural gas and especially nuclear plants — earn their keep by selling energy around the clock. Put enough wind and solar units on the grid during the hours when they are running and they flood the market and push down the hourly auction price of a megawatt-hour of energy.
“When we devote so many of our economic resources and our policies to the type of energy that produces power but not power on demand, we end up in a place where we start losing the megawatt we can control,” said Joseph Dominguez, Exelon’s senior vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs. “We’ve moved to a system focused on resources that provide energy when they want to.”
Not everyone agrees. Most electricity markets have auctions not only for energy but also for capacity; utilities serving homes and businesses make what amounts to payments to assure that electricity will be available when needed.
“No planner, no regulator and no utility is going to leave themselves capacity-short,” said Ron Binz...

Here's some other stories:

Coal still short as plants prepare for winter
Minnesota power companies, which don't have as much coal on hand as they want on the eve of winter, are blaming unreliable rail shipping. They say consumers may wind up paying steeper utility bills as a result.
Electric grid battles power plant closures
ISO New England has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve a new method for running ISO auctions...
The move comes after the latest auction in February failed to secure enough power plants to meet demand, causing prices to double or even quadruple in some instances and raising concerns about the rate at which power generators are closing in New England.
Massachusetts' Electric Rates Soar
...National Grid, Massachusetts’s biggest utility, said it needs to seek a 37 percent rate hike for the six months beginning November 1.
PJM Capacity Performance Proposal
Last winter’s generator performance—when up to 22 percent of PJM capacity was unavailable due to cold weather-related problems—highlighted a potentially significant reliability issue. PJM’s analysis shows that a comparable rate of generator outages in the winter of 2015/2016, coupled with extremely cold temperatures and expected coal retirements, would likely prevent PJM from meeting its peak load requirements.  

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