Both political parties acknowledge that the American power grid is not prepared to handle the increasing demand for electricity in the future. However, there is disagreement on the extent to which the rapidly expanding clean energy industry will contribute to strengthening the reliability of the power grid, causing tension between the parties.
During a POLITICO event on Grid Reliability, legislators and industry representatives discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s contentious plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the importance of natural gas in upcoming electricity production, and the changes necessary for expanding the electricity grid. Here are four key points from the discussion.
The current American power grid is not adequately prepared for future electricity needs.
Officials in the power industry presented a grim outlook on the grid’s capacity to meet the increasing demand caused by electric vehicles, computing advancements, and the shift towards electrifying heavy industrial processes.
According to Jim Matheson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, there is an increase in demand but supply is failing to match it, resulting in thinning margins.
According to Heather Teilhet, the senior vice president of external affairs at Oglethorpe Power Corporation, a Georgia-based electric cooperative, the increased production from the recently built reactors at the Vogtle power plant is insufficient to meet the growing demand in Oglethorpe’s service area.
“Some people mistakenly believe that the addition of a large nuclear reactor to our system means we have an abundance of energy. However, the reality is that we are already in need of additional capacity,” stated Teilhet. “We are considering investing in new natural gas resources, a combined cycle power plant, and potentially a new peaker plant.”
Both political factions are aware that the prolongation of permission processes is exacerbating the issue with the power grid.
Both Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Bob Latta
Representative from Ohio (R) pointed out that the slow process of obtaining permits for new power generation and transmission projects is hindering efforts to address the sudden increase in demand.
Peters has expressed a strong willingness to continue modifying the National Environmental Policy Act, a crucial environmental legislation that has been closely guarded by environmental organizations and progressive individuals who are concerned that changes may weaken its impact.
Peters stated that we must thoroughly examine every aspect of the existing environmental laws and find ways to achieve our desired outcomes more efficiently.
Ensuring that energy projects are not embroiled in legal disputes is a top concern for both political parties. Richard Campbell, from the conservative organization Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, believes that addressing lawsuits from individuals without legitimate standing is crucial before implementing any reform in the permitting process.
Peters concurred, stating that anyone who refuses to make any modifications to NEPA is not contributing to finding a solution. He emphasized the need for climate advocates to remove any obstacles hindering progress.
The Democratic representative from California stated that he is sharing a bill on permit reform with fellow politicians, which has caught the attention of certain Republican members.
“It’s challenging to convince people to take action, but at least they are present and ready in their swimwear,” he remarked about the Republicans.
The actions taken by the Biden administration to control natural gas power plants are causing turmoil within the industry.
The EPA’s proposed regulation, which would mandate a 90% reduction in carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants between 2035 and 2040, is seen as a hindrance to the development of the grid by Republicans and industry groups.
Latta expressed concern that these regulations could potentially harm the current generation and hinder their ability to access necessary power, rendering the discussion about power needs futile.
NRECA’s Matheson urged the EPA to retract the regulation, stating that the methods they suggested for reducing emissions – specifically carbon capture and hydrogen – are not yet capable of meeting the required level for the rule.
Matheson stated that the process of transitioning to a new set of energy sources will require a significant amount of time. He also noted that it is not advisable to force the closure of dependable power sources, as this could potentially jeopardize the reliability of the electric grid.
The energy industry is not familiar with the newly appointed House speaker.
The legislators also discussed the selection of the Speaker of the House.Mike Johnson
Regarding energy and climate policies.
Latta expressed confidence in Johnson’s understanding of the industry and his support for the “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which is widely supported by Republicans.
Peters predicts that the new speaker will prioritize the oil and gas industry.
The Democratic representative from California stated that he will maintain his efforts to collaborate with Republicans, specifically those he has already been working with on matters related to climate and energy. One of these joint efforts includes a bipartisan proposal to improve environmental legislation in order to safeguard sequoia trees. Peters worked together with the former Speaker to introduce this bill.Kevin McCarthy
Despite McCarthy being removed from his position, Peters promised that the bill still has a lot of potential.