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Monday, July 4, 2022

Colorado used to be AC-optional. Heat wave signals whether electric grid is ready for the future

A heavy reliance on air conditioning to keep cool threatens to knock out power more frequently as heat waves intensify, and Colorado officials are asking for utility “readiness” assurances this week when temperatures rise above 100 degrees. has gone.

A combination of earlier-than-extreme heat, extended drought and wildfires that can destroy transmission lines have increased outage risk, particularly in the West. Shrinking waters mean that hydro-powered turbines atop the Grand Canyon can no longer turn.

While the electricity grid in Colorado has proven relatively resilient, “this is a bigger issue than in the past,” Colorado Energy Office director Will Toor said in an interview Tuesday.

“It’s important for utilities to really accelerate their demand-response programs to help manage peak needs. We need to pay real attention to resource adequacy as we face longer heat waves, more intense heat.” Let’s step into this world of waves and loss of hydropower,” said Toor.

Colorado residents have traditionally considered air conditioning as an optional feature. He’s changing. “As summers warm up, we’re increasingly going to see cooling down as a real necessity,” Toor said. “We are entering a world where AC is going to be more and more important to health and safety through these long heat waves.”

The president of Colorado’s largest electricity supplier – Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy – acknowledged the strains but told The Denver Post’s plan paid off.

This week’s heat wave across the West “presents challenges for us. But we are prepared for those challenges,” said Excel-Colorado President Robert Kenney, pledging full cooperation with state regulators.

“We know that high temperatures, and sustained high temperatures, are climate-driven. We are prepared. We have our own meteorological studies. We pay attention to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. We make sure we have enough resources. ,” said Kenny.

This spring, Xcel teams will handle scheduled maintenance at power plants to boost readiness for anticipated summer demands, Kenney said. And the additional power generated has been increased to meet the peak demands.

Heat waves typically bring the biggest challenges to utilities, often in the afternoon when residents return to homes and dial ACs.

Colorado’s growing population means additional stress. Xcel now serves 1.5 million homes and businesses here (3.8 million in eight states in total), up from about 1.2 million a decade ago.

State regulatory officials on Tuesday couldn’t say how many times a year power plants failed to meet demands, but they cited an industry standard measure of reliability — outage minutes per customer per year — that could hit Colorado in 2021. Was around 57.6 minutes to 236.4 minutes. , This was less than the national average of 280 minutes.

Across the West, rising electricity demand has overwhelmed electricity grids in California, leading to rolling blackouts. In Texas, an extreme winter storm in February 2021 killed more than 200 people, leading to a blackout.

Colorado officials forecast summer days with temperatures of between 90 degrees and 100 degrees Celsius. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Colorado’s average temperature has increased by 2.5 degrees, and the number of very hot days has increased over the past two decades, according to the 2022 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration summary. “Historically unprecedented warming is anticipated during this century.”

On Friday, Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to ascertain utility readiness to meet increased electricity demands this summer and beyond.

An agency spokesperson said PUC officials wanted to be aware of “unforeseen risks surrounding plant outages, tight regional power markets and near-term completion of some solar projects”. Xcel executives are expected to address “resource adequacy in the coming years” and the wider situation around the West.

In recent years Colorado officials have pressured utilities to shut down coal-fired power plants and install clean solar and wind systems to generate electricity. Excel executives recently agreed to close their massive coal-fired Comanche power plant east of the pueblo by 2031, faster than their long-planned 2035 closure.

Currently, utilities in the state burn coal to generate 36.7% of electricity (up from the national average of 21.6). According to federal energy records, they rely on renewable sources (mostly wind) to generate 35.7% of their electricity and methane for a 25.9% share.

Colorado’s electricity use per capita has been lower than two-thirds of the states, federal records show, but more residents are switching from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles. This has led to more drivers tapping the estimated 3,500 public vehicle fast-charging ports installed across the state.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation has warned in its latest summer assessment that an energy emergency is possible due to climate warming and utilities shifting coal generators to wind and solar power. NERC’s assessment cited the climate warming effect on hydropower, wildfire hazards for transmission lines, and the challenges of relying on intermittent wind and solar sources of electricity.

President Joe Biden has called for a “de-carbonization” of the US power grid before 2035 – an effort to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases that accelerate climate warming.

One way power plants can increase grid resilience is by storing energy in batteries as a backup to cope with sudden heavy demands. EXCEL officials have proposed to install up to 400 MW of power in the battery under a plan which is being reviewed by PUC officials.

World Nation News Desk
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