Silence of the Grid Experts

by Planning Engineer (Russell Schussler)

There are many reasons why grid experts within the electric utility industry have not spoken out when unrealistic “green” goals were being developed and promoted over the last 20 years or so. A more open debate during this period might have helped provide a  more realistic foundation for future development.  This posting describes some reasons as to why at the corporate level electric utilities did not speak out more in defense of grid reliability.  Collectively these factors tended to eliminate grid experts from playing any role in the development of policies impacting the grid.

Speaking Out Risked Negative Consequences

Utilities have many stakeholders with varying degrees of power.  Utilities depend on good relations with Public Service Commissions, other regulators, consumers and policy makers. The stereotype of electric utilities as uncaring, selfish, greedy destroyers of the environment tends to make utilities very cautious and careful in critiquing anything perceived as “green”.  The media and press attention from any such statements would likely not be favorable.

Utilities need support to acquire right-of-way, for financing, for cost-recovery and to avoid adverse legislation. Poor press and the associated public disapproval loomed as strong disincentives for speaking out.  Furthermore, as will be discussed later, expressing concerns over emerging reliability issues, could be interpreted by some as implying that perhaps you were not as capable as others appear to be.

The Waiting Game: Short-Term versus Long-Term Goals

The short-term consequences of objecting to “green” initiatives impact were swift and near and would be specifically painful to the offending party. The potential benefits of speaking out on reliability would be collective, diffuse and farther into the future.  Who as one of hundreds of utilities would want to be the first to speak out?  The near-term burden of “green” goals at very low penetration levels was small enough that it might seem prudent to wait for others to speak up.

It can be observed already how these reasons worked together to stifle dissent. Areas with greatest pressures for green initiatives were held back because speaking out would have more severe consequences for them.  Areas with lesser pressures were also less likely to be impacted in the near term, so they were less incentivized to speak out.  Many hoped that maybe they could ride this out and learn from the mistakes of others.  Unfortunately, mistakes and problems don’t seem to be slowing things down.

Utilities Are Not Experts, But Rather a Collection of Experts

There is not a common single body of expertise commonly shared by the many experts that make up an electric utility.  Rather than are many experts with differing areas of expertise with demands that can place them at conflict with those operating within other areas of expertise.  Effectively managing an electric utility is highly dependent upon balancing the input of many competing “experts”.  The goals and priorities of large areas such budgeting, rates, maintenance, operating, environmental, planning, construction, compliance, marketing, R&D, legal, strategic planning. as well as sub areas within these, will often be in conflict as to the actions a utility should take.  Leaders have to weigh the inputs from these areas to provide direction and make decisions.

Competing Experts and Goals

Healthy competition is good and necessary.  The goals of maintenance are worthwhile, but sometimes in order to best utilize our resources and address other concerns, utilities might need to temporarily depart from what the maintenance experts advocate.  The experts in projects tell us how long it should take to complete a project.  But in emergencies, other experts might insist that this project must be completed in a much shorter time frame to allow for an upcoming summer peak. Transmission planning and distribution planning experts within the utility might favor different solutions for correcting an area problem: do you beef up the area distribution or do you add more support from the transmission system?  With conflicts of this sort, sometimes you find a compromise, but in others one set of experts must give in.

There are many incentives for increasing wind and solar generation (if it works).  For some areas of expertise, wind and solar integration pose no special problems.  Experts and executives from these areas often were wind and solar boosters.  Similarly to academics as described in a previous post, some utility experts argued that (some) problems with wind and solar could be solved, and it was often mistakenly interpreted to mean all problems could be solved.

During my career I would manage several different areas that at times would be in conflict.  I would tell my key people, “You are the experts here.  You must be a strong advocate for your area of responsibilities.  Sometimes I and others in upper management will have to place other concerns over yours. You will need to be a team player and accept the situation.  That doesn’t mean you should be any less of an advocate for these concerns  in future situations.”   Good management balances the inputs of different experts. Utilities found that near term imperatives were in conflict with more distant reliability concerns. Unfortunately, it was almost exclusively the case that emerging reliability concerns were judged as something better addressed later.

Margin, Experts, and Who Are You Going to Believe?

In advocating for their specific areas of concerns, often experts will build in a little margin.  I’ll use the example of budgeting here.  Although it took me while to get on board, many people are probably familiar with how that process works.  Initially when we I would hear of dire budget woes, I would heed the call and cut things as close to the bone as I could.  Those of you who are not as naïve as I once was, know that the next step is to squeeze even more out of EVERYONE.  At that point it didn’t matter what you had given up in step 1, more was needed and everyone must contribute.  My nature was to be a team player and head the original call, but after getting burned a few times, I learned that I must play the margin game.

Competing experts should be “expected” to build in margin within their various areas of expertise.  The projects area may pad their schedules with some extra time to give themselves some flexibility.  Maintenance might aggressively schedule maintenance and replacement so that they are ok if hard times later put a cut in their resources.  Initial designs of projects may be “Cadillac” level to better survive cost pushbacks which might emerge under review.

In  the area of grid reliability, the grid depends on margin.  It should survive without a hiccup for once every 50-year events, because hundreds or more of those type events can and will happen in the normal operation of a system. Conflations of equipment outages, extreme weather,  and other unanticipated events hit the grid many times during a given year.  The consequences can be huge.  However, if you push back on reliability for a short time in one area, there’s a good chance you will be fine.  Negative consequences will likely be unobservable.  But continue to do so and  severe consequences will begin to emerge.

The large chorus of outside “experts” saying that wind and solar can be integrated successfully complicated the situation.  Executives with other responsibilities see that government, academics, consultants, consumers, policy makers, and experts within parts of the utility industry are all pushing higher levels of wind and solar.  Similarly, the industry sponsored research arms did not help much, but rather pushed new technology as well.  Perhaps because they saw a “gold mine” in potential “green research projects”.  This all lead to confusion around grid capabilities.

Lastly, grid experts were disregarded partly due to their great success in the past.   The fact that modern power systems have a high degree of margin makes it harder to argue that the system is not sufficiently robust to allow for high penetration levels of wind and solar. The ability of grid engineers to meet emerging challenges to-date have led many to believe they could continue to do so, not matter what might be thrown at them.

Specialization and Silos

In additions to problems of breadth of expertise, problems around  specialization also confound attempts at expert consensus.  Understanding the full extent of emerging grid reliability problems requires an understanding of generation planning, transmission planning and systems operations. Intermittent, asynchronous wind and solar energy sources impact generation planning, transmission planning and system operators. These three areas have differing expertise and experts within these areas that are not always well informed of the concerns of the others.  Generation planners are concerned with providing generation 24 hours a day 367 days a year far into the future.  They assume transmission planners will take care of delivery problems.   Generation modelling is focused on energy production and they look at megawatt-hours.  Transmission Planners are worried about the transmission system during peak times of stress. They make efforts to understand the implications of potential generation, but intermittent sources make that challenging.  Their focus is based on demand levels so they look at megawatts.  System Operators worry about issues of generation and transmission but they operate day to day and in the near term.  Their focus is on dealing with the system as it is, not determining what it might be or handle scenarios in the far future.   Further within these areas, there are specialists who go deep and do not well understand the problems within their own broader area.

Within critical areas around grid reliability, there are various specialist who may not see the big picture. For example, those who model the transmission system who may see problems now, may be optimistic or agnostic as to how future versions of wind and solar may work to better support the system.  Those who work more directly with  wind and solar and know their inherent capabilities probably don’t fully understand their impact on the transmission system.  It takes an understanding of both areas to see the   emerging problems that are confronting the system.

Hope and the Benefit of the Doubt

Despite what you may have heard, most engineers want to be environmentally responsible. Instead of being opposed to new technology, most of us have sought to support potential “green” applications that had at least small hopes of promise.  I was never aware of anyone stacking the deck against “green” options, but the reverse frequently occurred.   It’s evident that conventional generation options are productive many years longer than competing solar or wind  options, but most comparative analyses assumed 30 year lives for all alternatives including Green ones.  I don’t know of any significant objections to wind and solar leaning on the system a little for support, or raising costs a little.  The concerns only came when the impacts are particularly egregious or approaching unsustainability.

The support for “Green” options extended to optimistic assumptions about future development, performance and capabilities of those resources.  Often instead of focusing on what might be probable in the future, utilities hoped for what might be possible.  Many have hoped that maybe wind and solar coupled with batteries and a lot of technological development will allow asynchronous intermittent wind and solar to replace higher levels of conventional synchronous generation.  Such hopes have for many clouded the clear evidence that increasing levels of wind and solar presented reliability threats.

FERC and NERC’s Impacts

In the U.S., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the reliability oversight organization (NERC) that they empowered, have served to inhibit the industry from voicing reliability concerns.  FERC’s open access policy and the resultant standards of conduct in 1996 have segregated the functions of generation planning and transmission planning.  FERC’s goal was to prevent generation providers, who owned transmission as well, from having any competitive advantage over other generation providers. Previously, managers and VPs might have responsibility for both groups (as I did at one point), but FERC required that those functions be separated and it was important that information not be shared between them. FERC effectively shut down reliability discussions between in-house generation experts and transmission experts.  Coordinating a reliable grid was well served by interplay, dialogue and coordination between those planning and managing generation and transmission. Understanding emerging problems similarly is best served by having experts with a sound grounding in both generation and transmission.

NERC and the regional reliability entities initially were formed and controlled by the utilities to coordinate reliability efforts amongst the participants.  In 2006 FERC established NERC as the national reliability organization with enforcement powers. Making NERC the master over utilities versus their servant has had various consequences. Beginning in 2007, NERC and the regional entities could impose large fines for violating NERCs’ reliability criteria. Before that time, utilities would share any problems that they were seeing at reliability meetings, they were seeing as well as emerging concerns in an open and frank manner.  Despite utilities differences in some areas there was a strong joint commitment to reliability and all felt it was best to learn from each other’s mistakes. But when the regulators had the ability to impose fines of a million dollars a day, it no longer made sense to share reliability concerns.  Publicly expressing reliability concerns might predispose NERC to lean towards findings of noncompliance should problems emerge.

Perhaps the greatest impact came in the shift of responsibilities. Utilities used to have responsibility for ensuring reliability.  They had skin in the game. They had a number of tools including generation and transmission options to better ensure reliability.  But regulation by FERC through NERC, took the reliability function away from utilities.  Utilities are no longer responsible for ensuring reliability.  They are responsible for compliance with reliability standards.    That was a profound and consequential change. Utilities are no longer developing reliability experts; they are developing experts in standards compliance.  When outages occur, it’s hard to figure out where blame lies now.   Will there ever again be grid experts who have skin in the game again?

Summary and Conclusions

There were a lot of utility experts with grid concerns.  You might ask, “Why didn’t more people speak up?” But maybe the better question is, “Why would anyone speak up?”  A lot of people could have said the type things I started saying about a decade ago, but they had  no incentives to speak out and there were few influential people who cared to listen.  In summary:

  • There were few to no near-term incentives for individual utility experts or for utilities corporately to speak up as regard planned threats to reliability
  • There were significant near-term disincentives for speaking up
  • Limited to no platforms for voicing concerns
  • Waiting and hoping for others to speak up seemed a prudent path for many
  • Competing “experts” and diverse areas of specialization confused understandings of risk
  • Past success of grid experts made it harder to take future reliability threats seriously
  • Strong widely present desires support “clean” wind and solar
  • Federal Actions served to quite dissenting voices and eventual remove dissenting experts

The days of utility-based grid experts who’ve had skin in the game are over. Utility experts are charged with complying with reliability standards rather than maintaining reliability.  Where utilities once had variety of tools at their disposal to better foresee and forestall reliability problems, utilities now follow compliance standards and hope for the best.

145 responses to “Silence of the Grid Experts

  1. Peter Cunningham

    At last – some facts. Thankyou both Judith and Russell.

    As in the construction industry – COMPLIANCE with mandated doctrine and risk averse ‘tick the box’ processes are THE NORM and are destroying societies.

    Expertise and realities are way down the list from those who establish the agenda driven processes to which we must ALL comply …. OR ELSE – and that across the board, not just engineering.

    These are days of ‘enlightenment’?? Hardly

    • Curious George

      What a concise description of socialism.

    • ferzasutru

      just got paid $7268 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made 0ver $ 13892 her first m0nth. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less.

      This is what I do…………

  2. Russ

    Another excellent post. This is one of the most extraordinary statements in your entire series.

    “ But regulation by FERC through NERC, took the reliability function away from utilities. Utilities are no longer responsible for ensuring reliability. They are responsible for compliance with reliability standards.”

    Would those agencies agree with that statement? Or is that an unintended consequence of their policy changes? Would they disagree with your characterization? What have they done to strengthen reliability?

    Could you elaborate a little?

    • aplanning engineer

      Asking Google who is repsonsible for grid reliability it says “DOE seeks to ensure that the nation’s energy delivery system is secure, resilient, and reliable.” FERC is under DOE and NERC under FERC. They cover all the reliability functions that NERC could think of. There are hundreds of reliabilty standards.

      NERC’s site says “NERC Reliability Standards define the reliability requirements for planning and operating the North American bulk power system.”

      The standards are good things, best practice, prudent and all that.

      I beleive that conforming to the standards is all that is asked or expected of any entity associated with the grid. No rules are perfect and in most areas it’s good to have some tricks in your bags for emergency, but I’ve always understood the expectation is to follow the rules, not try to save the system. I don’t think NERC would say reliabiltiy is your responsibility.

      I can think of instances in the way that rules were implemented that it actually increased reliability risks for a time. But that was not judged a reason not to follow them, or to modify and improvise as you sought to eventually compley. Engineers who used to ensure reliabilty, now do so through the compliance framework.

      You can be found in noncompliance for all sorts of things that had no chance of potetnitally impacting the system. The fact that non-compliance caused an outage likely makes the assesed penalty worse. But if you are in compliance, but could have done something extra to prevent an outage, but did not- I don’t think you are in any trouble. I don’t think NERC expects you to step up and save your neighbor. (Think of the analogy – you have flat tire and are fleeing a hurricane. I have a spare tire but the treds a bit lower than regulations. Do I help you, or comply with the regs?)

  3. The insanity runs deep- radical environmentalist even opposed geothermal power plants that would emit no greenhouse gases nor radioactive waste to feed into the existing Bonneville power grid without the need to create extensive new transmission lines and rights of way.

    • With geothermal plants there are a lot of other issues. In overall temperature is to low to generate electricity (low Carnot cycle efficiency), Also there are limited amounts of water that can be pumped. Water has very high minerals content, so it will immediately kill any system. In deep drills there is no water, rocks have limited conductivity and heat capacity so areas around drills would be cooled down… Yellowstone is very unique system in the world, where nature created great geothermal conditions, but I am not sure if we want to destroy it to build a power plant there….

      • All forms of energy production come at a cost, including solar and wind power. Norway has a lot of Teslas because they have unlimited hydroelectric power, all the while exporting Nort Sea oil to build up their Sovereign Wealth Fund.

  4. Doctrine and standards keep people from having to think through a complex problem from first principles, and can include lots of hard-won experience based on edge cases to need to be avoided. But they also let people avoid thinking through complex problems from first principles, and thinking is hard and most people are lazy.

    But surely all the grid reliability issues can be fixed by dumping the wildly unpredictable energy requirements of the entire transportation sector onto the existing system. Surely.

    The other day I was wondering about how innovative nuclear ideas like liquid fluoride thorium reactors face the huge obstacle of nuclear regulatory burdens required to be attached to the US electric grid, so that some small nuclear proposals focused on purely military applications what wouldn’t require US grid connects.

    But perhaps that problem could mesh with the EV charging problem by dedicating completely separate power network that only runs charging stations, freeing up both new powerplants and chargers to use whatever voltages, currents, and frequencies would be optimal in a particular area.

    Of course attracting investment might be extremely difficult because realists know how many serious hurdles there are to actually getting an EV transition to succeed, and my bet would be that it just won’t happen in less than several more decades due to shortages of raw materials, deficiencies in safety (EV’s sometimes spontaneously and violently burn), inefficiency, battery replacement cost, huge power requirements for charging stations (Tesla semis are already estimated to require one megawatt of charging power), and the fact that without non-fossil power plants, they don’t really reduce CO2.

    Another reason I doubt anyone would seriously push for a separate EV grid is that it would require a huge upfront investment that can be easily avoided by simply throwing a set of charging stations on the existing grid and then pointing fingers at the utility companies if predictable problems crop up.

  5. This was written:
    The fact that modern power systems have a high degree of margin makes it harder to argue that the system is not sufficiently robust to allow for high penetration levels of wind and solar.
    They are cutting the margin, they have cut the margin or the Texas February 2021 disaster would not have occurred.

    “Why didn’t more people speak up?”

    Easy answer:
    They would lose their jobs and be prevented from having most jobs, and they would lose all the Subsidy money they were being paid!

    • The Texas Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill which is an effort to prevent another February 2021 disaster. There is heated opposition to the plan as the House contemplates what to do.

      Russell, do you have a comment?

      • So the writer of this article is p*ssed because the legislation provides for more reliable natural gas plants instead of unreliable wind and solar. It doesn’t take a genius to see the problem is with the writer and not the bill. Or maybe it does take a genius.

      • Who cares about our opinions… What did Texas’s richest citizen, Elon Musk, say about raising the EV tax to $200 a year? … Crickets… He wants everyone to be forced to use his robotaxis, smart guy!
        He also said nothing about any of the new state laws that will restrict RE and boost thermal energy.

        I hope this ultra deep geothermal drilling works – game changer:
        28 Apr 2023
        The test was performed on April 25, 2023, in partnership with Nabors Industries Ltd. (“Nabors”) (NYSE: NBR) at their technology center in Houston. Integrating the innovative drilling tools of GA Drilling into Nabors’ industry-leading automated drilling operations is expected to accelerate field commercialization and eliminate traditional economic barriers to deep geothermal projects.
        GA Drilling, a geothermal technology company with operations in Houston (USA), Bratislava (Slovakia), and Bristol (U.K.), is a pioneer in advanced drilling using plasma and thermomechanical technologies.

      • When are you going to give up your fantasy about deep geothermal (hot dry rock) jack? It hasn’t worked yet and there are fundamental reasons why it won’t. The permability isn’t there nor is thermal conductivity.
        Oil wells regularly go to over 10km depth. Few real geothermal ones go past 3km. Most of those that do have no permeability. There are reasons for that which don’t seem to comprehend.

    • aplanningengineer

      Herman(Alex) – sometimes you get a good balance of perspectives, sometimes the horse developed by a committee looks a lot like a camel. I suspect the only reason gas is in the plan is because it is needed. The reason it is getting compensated is because it is valuable. That makes some folks angry no doubt.

      • dougbadgero

        It is clear that gas has its own set of problems. Increasing penetration of solar and, primarily, wind in ERCOT created the reliability issues in ERCOT, but nat gas has badly under performed in ERCOT and PJM and maybe others. Nat gas has been the only dispatchable power source that could be built for decades now. Consequently, we have created this problem by over reliance on nat gas.

        The nat gas and electricity markets are poorly coordinated, and the nat gas system was not designed to be the primary fuel supply for electric generation. These issues may be solvable. I don’t have the technical expertise in nat gas infrastructure to know how hard that will be. We have put ourselves in a box. The only question is how many blackouts and deaths must occur to get out of it.

      • Doug
        One of the big problems with natural gas fired plant is there is minimal storage of the gas, especially when a lot of turbines are using it. The storage is often just what is in the pipes. The gas storage facilities can be a long way away. Pump up pressure when there is low demand and draw down that pressure at high load is the operating regime. As the pressure drops, velocity increases which increases pressure drop further. Vicious circle.
        Some of our plant automatically trips out when pressure in receiving line drops below 40bg. With normal operating pressure of 80bg, not much margin.
        As the duck curve (though now in CA and South Australia, it’s now a canyon) seems to be a near permanent feature, this cycling of gas pressures brings system reliability risks. If the wind isn’t blowing or the sun not shining, then using gas to generate the gap means a lot less generation available for the evening peaks. One can see it already with system operators issuing lack of reserves notices.

      • firstcreateyoursitedotcomaccount

        “sometimes the horse developed by a committee looks a lot like a ” glockenspiel?

    • Your easy answer that “They would lose their jobs and be prevented from having most jobs, and they would lose all the Subsidy money they were being paid!” suggests clearly that their employers are complicit in the fraud.

      Don’t engineers take an oath that would obligate them to declare wind and solar at an industrial scale ‘unfit for purpose’?

  6. To The All-Knowing List of Climate Mavens:
    The EPA is proposing to regulate CO2 emissions from vehicles and factories in RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD PROGRAM: Standards for 2023-2025. I submitted the following comment
    No one has had the kindness to identify any error, or show me where I went wrong.

    Dear Sirs – As an American citizen I object to regulations limiting the amount of carbon dioxide to be emitted by vehicles and production facilities.
    Addressing the consequences of climate change is laudable and appropriate. We have been doing that for the last 100,000 years, and this is no time to stop. And giving a helping hand to those less fortunate than we is great. But not because we are guilty of being a contributing cause to climate change and they are not.

    Climate change has been going on for 550 million years, in our absence, including 4 Ice Ages, of which our current is still ongoing. None of those Ice Ages, in or out, was preceded by a CO2 change. In the last million years of our current Ice Age, there have been 8 glaciations and 8 interglacials, of which this last is still going on. None of them were preceded by a CO2 change. Indeed, in 550 million years there has never been a temperature reversal preceded by CO2 change.

    Not only did we humans not have a hand in any of those reversals, but neither did CO2. So “climate mitigation” is not a reasonable goal since we have no reason to suppose that warming will continue and we must be prepared to deal with a cooling climate as well as a warming one. Previous interglacials have lasted not a lot more than 10,000 years, so we’re a bit past our due date, and should consider ourselves fortunate. 140,000 years ago, the Eemian, the world was about 2C warmer, the seas at least 6 meters higher, and humans and polar bears and corals were doing quite well.
    Crisis? Retreating a few miles from the seacoast will be annoying, but far preferable to watching New York and London get crushed under mile-thick slabs of ice as in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) 20,000 years ago. And of course the emergence from the LGM was not preceded by CO2 change.

    Indeed, the natural experiments have been done:
    During the depression years 1929-1931, when human CO2 production declined 30%, CO2 continued its languid rise unchanged, with temperatures continuing to rise till 1941 when they began a slight decline to 1972, again with no change in the rate of CO2 rise despite WWII and post-war reconstruction. Thus the “Oncoming Ice Age!” scares in the early 70s (see Time and Newsweek and ScienceNews in the early ’70s).
    More recently, climatologist Randall Cerveny, unaware of the former, expressed disappointment that the 10% decline in 2020 production had no effect on atmospheric CO2. “We had had some hopes that, with last year’s COVID scenario, perhaps the lack of travel [and] the lack of industry might act as a little bit of a brake. But what we’re seeing is, frankly, it has not.”

    There are 9 major forcings for climate change, for which CO2 is, at this time at these levels, not a major player. Not only is there no historical basis for CO2 control of climate, there is also no theoretical basis at this time. Arrhenius discovered the exponential decline of the GHG effect of CO2, and the calculations are now correct. 50% of the GHG effect of CO2 is in the first 20 ppm, and so the next doubling to 800 ppm will increase its GHG effect by less than 2%, in theory. Meanwhile, its beneficial effect on plant life increases arithmetically, making them grow bigger, and faster and resist drought. And then CO2 is virtually the only GHG in the stratosphere to relay IR out to space. So CO2 warms us and cools us and feeds us. We really should appreciate it more.

    An excellent review of climate science is by Javier Vinos, here:

    The important conclusions here are:
    1. CO2 at this time at these levels is not in control of climate change and
    2. We are not in control of CO2.

    Wind and solar are intermittent and unreliable and require reliable backup which at the moment means fossil fuel since nuclear is understandably unpopular, and hydrogen should be for much the same reason.

    Nor should we neglect the unacceptable impact of the increased burden on the electrical grid supply imposed by Electronic Vehicles, a grid already compromised by shutting down fossil fuel generating plants, already made less reliable by the reliance on wind and solar generation, a grid inherently fragile because of susceptibility to hostile actors, internal and abroad (EMP attack, anyone?). It surely makes no sense to subsidize those vehicles, though there is no reason to forbid them.

    We do not need to replicate Australia’s experiment, although California seems happy to do so, and Oregon seems happy to be carried along. Fossil fuel use is individualized and fungible, unlike the electric grid. We have enough for several hundred years, enough time for good substitutes to be devised. Nuclear power seems like a much more desirable alternative, if indeed one is desired.

    Or perhaps we could take on a more benign project – like decreasing the amount of water vapor, controlling the formation and distribution of clouds, or altering the quantity and quality of solar radiation.

  7. Australia is now starting to have the problems with matching generation and load, causing grid issues.
    But it is a private blog post, not AEMO or one of the grid/ distribution utilities point this out. Reinforcing PEs point, The previous CEO of Snowy Hydro had to leave because he spoke up about the “heroic” statements of the Energy Minister.

    • Chris, Broad actually unloaded on Bowen (again?) just today.

      “Former Snowy Hydro chief executive Paul Broad has attacked Chris Bowen and branded Labor’s target to reach 80 per cent renewables by 2030 as “bull…t” after Snowy 2.0 was hit with a fresh two year delay.”

      • After getting sacked by the minister, I cannot imagine there is any love lost between the two. Broad would know enough to really shame Bowen. No doubt he will be the go to comments man for every energy problem that NSW has.
        First power cut be interesting to get seen who gets thrown under the bus.

  8. I think the most likely cause for utility support for green energy and silence lies with simple greed.

    By happily going along with the irrationality, utilities stand to make a lot of risk-free money deploying green energy and then cleaning up the ensuing mess. After all, the utilities are just doing what the politicians tell them. The politicians do the bidding of green energy because of the massive amounts of re-election money they get from the green energy mafia. Green energy receives stunning amounts of money from government bureaucrats doing the bidding of the politicians. The bureaucrats also make a lot of money. The common theme, a lot of people enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and middle class.

    Follow the money and the truth becomes clear. “Climate Change” is nothing more than corruption on a stunningly vast scale. There is virtually no chance that this massive wealth transfer operation will have any impact on the planet’s climate.

  9. Judith, it just occurred to me that my post might have been misinterpreted. The decency I was hoping for was from the EPA site readers, not the kind residents of this site. May I have the opportunity to rephrase?

  10. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Frigid stationary highs in the South Pacific are causing a rapid drop in surface temperatures.

  11. As a retired engineer from a distribution utility I saw exactly what is being described. My old utility is government owned and as you can expect when problems were raised with say the impact on the network from the increasing penetration of roof top solar they were dismissed or played down by managers who kept a close eye on what the “owners” wanted. I worry every day that we will reach a point of network instability which will result in unnecessary outages and which will take many years to fix.

    • On the current trajectory outages are inevitable, especially when they’re increasing load on the grid through EV’s faster than they’re adding capacity or addressing the stability problems from wind and solar. I predict politicians will try to lower expectations and point fingers at greedy utilities rather than correcting the problems they caused, unless of course they start getting tossed out of office in large numbers.

      But you could say that we’re designing the power systems of the future, like the ones on Star Trek where the ship would lose power in what seemed like every third or fourth episode.

      • Don’t worry. The Green Doomers are pouring billions of research dollars into dilithium.

      • R. "Danny" Olivaw

        George: You wrote:
        “I predict politicians will try to lower expectations and point fingers at greedy utilities rather than correcting the problems they caused, unless of course they start getting tossed out of office in large numbers.”

        A mass expulsion of the corrupt politicians would require a level of understanding among an increasingly dumbed-down electorate that lacks the information upon which to make rational choices, the necessary understanding of cause and effect, and the long-term perspective (context) in which to apply that understanding. People vote their emotions, and those who most skillfully manipulate those emotions win.

        But an eviction of the politicians would fail unless it were accompanied by a massive house cleaning of the institutionalized “green” mindset carried by the much larger horde of unelected career bureaucrats. They are the people who design, implement, and enforce policies that elevate compliance with reliability standards above reliability itself.

        Actually, even a wholesale housecleaning would not solve the longer-term problem, which is a ubiquitous societal mindset that state interference in energy production and distribution is somehow “necessary”. It’s not. Market forces are wholly capable of evolving systems of production and distribution that naturally optimize reliability, efficiency, the value/cost ratio.

        The problem isn’t Greenism; in a free society, it would be allowed to compete on its own merits, without any need for institutionalized state tinkering that creates more problems than it solves. The fact that such state meddling in the market for energy is considered necessary is the tip-off that, on its own merits, Greenism could not compete.

        The demonization of carbon is the emotional fuel that drives the Green political machinery. Replacing the political wheels in that machine won’t solve the problem. The machinery has no business existing in the first place.

  12. Geoff Sherrington

    Because there are so few people at the top of organisations, the role of the Chief is not well understood and is rarely experienced. Yet, people who have not been there criticise it “knowingly”
    We had a ginger group of middle management who joked about Head Office as “El Rancho Costaplenty” and the business jet as “The Flying Overheads”. And more. In quiet conversation, some would ask “What is your purpose in the organisation? Why are you here? What do you do all day?”
    Because the numbers of the Chiefs are few, they do not form a strong voice to be heard. Also, Chiefs might be in deadly competition that restricts cross-thinking to maintain advantage.Chiefs are seldom consulted by outside groups because they are seen as senior and unapproachable. The Chiefs speak for their whole organisation and they have to be careful with their public statements to represent the whole of their group and not insult it. Chiefs have so much material put to them by staff that they cannot respond to each piece in the detail expected, leading sometimes to an illusion of not caring. Data is often analysed from a less detailed perspective because of time constraints.
    I am not claiming that a structure with a Chief is a wrong structure, just a little-felt and little-understood one. I have never met a Chief (bar one) who skited about his/her prowess. This is in contrast to groups (greens are splendid examples) of unstructured experts who know that they are good at whatever they take on. They are often at the centre of disaster outcomes.
    I hope that my comments do not misinterpret your words above.
    Geoff S

    • Curious George

      It depends on how you define a Chief. Secretary Mayorkas? Secretary Buttigieg? Secretary Granholm?

  13. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Blocking circulation is occurring in both hemispheres, and this is no coincidence.
    A powerful Arctic high in the coming days will cause frosts at night in Central Europe, and air from the north may reach Italy.

  14. Ireneusz Palmowski

    The Arctic’s ice extent is shrinking slowly.

  15. Mark Gobell

    And in the UK, scrapping the national grid management company and replacing it with a “future system operator”

    National Grid to lose Great Britain electricity role to independent operator

  16. After France starved it’s power utility, EDF, with price caps, running up debt, it now nationalizes it. Neat trick that.

    President Emmanuel Macron decided last year to fully nationalize EDF, which produces the vast majority of France’s power, as reliability issues at a dozen nuclear reactors and a government cap on electricity prices to mitigate Europe’s energy crisis have put a huge hole in the utility’s finances. Groups representing employee and other minority shareholders challenged the buyout bid, saying that the €12 per share offer undervalued the company.

    The government is seeking to get full ownership of the utility — whose net financial debt soared 50% last year to €64.5 billion — to pave the way for tens of billions of euros in investment to upgrade its nuclear reactors, to help it build new plants and roll out renewable energies as France works to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels.

  17. @ jim2 | May 4, 2023 at 7:01 am in suspense.

  18. Richard Greene

    I have a blog where I recommend 20 good climate and energy articles every day. Every Planning Engineer article is recommended – this one will be listed among my favorite four articles out of 20 today. Great content and well written too.

    I want to bring up another possibility that doesn’t seem to have made the cut: An engineer would want to be very specific, with lots of data, when reporting why Nut Zero for his electric utility will not work.

    Those specifics would require a detailed plan for each electric utility that could be analyzed for cost, timing and feasibility. Then the right specialists — engineers, cost estimators and critical path timing expert could analyze the plan and report exactly where the problems will be (not feasible, unaffordable and can’t be completed on time, but otherwise the plan is perfect … ha ha .).

    I believe such detailed long term plans are not available for analysis. And there is no detailed national master plan to link all the US electric utility’s plans together.

    And then you have hard to predict electricity demand changes for more electric vehicles, more building electric heat and more electric appliances — all increasing at an unknown rate. All these unknowns make it impossible to do a detailed study of the Nut Zero plan.

    Even if detailed Nut Zero plans were available for analysis, consider the risk of an engineer studying the data and predicting high probability of a blackout within two years. If there were no blackouts in two years, he could lose his job before the predicted blackout DID happen. Accurate predictions are very difficult.

    An example of the risk of a wrong predictions is from the field of economics — I wrote the economics newsletter ECONOMIC LOGIC for 43 years:

    US economists, as a group, have NEVER predicted a recession, even though they ALL know one recession, or two, are very likely every ten years. Why are they so bullish? Because being bullish all the time makes them “right”, typically in nine years out of ten years, and that is a great “batting average” for economists, that requires no thinking at all.

    Predicted favorite excuse for Nut Zero implemtation problems discovered in a few years:

    Nut Zero is not going according to plan,
    because there is no plan!

    Another excuse:

    While trying to implement Nut Zero, we discovered an alarming lnumber subjects we knew nothing about

    The best excuse

    A large dog ate the Nut Zero plan

  19. Thank you for the article…. But we live in times, where genetics is ignored and now to be a female is just a matter of declaration, green deal is pushed by people, who were not able to built electric trains (Chicago has a Diesel-powered local train system, similarly California), and minors can change their gender or have an abortion without parents consent but to buy a bottle of beer they have to be 21….

  20. Anybody miss the old “natural monopoly” regulated investor owned utilities that provided integrated generation, transmission and distribution services?

    I began warning about these exact issues in the late 1970s in response to the get-rich-quick hustlers and ideologically-driven manipulators. They began holding sway over politicians, bureaucrats and utility executives such that I lost out on several executive positions because I warned the boards of directors about the eventualities of “deregulated” generation: Politicized Leftist decisionmaking, higher costs, lower reliability & etc.

    I’m not happy that things have turned out exactly as I predicted. I see no way out of the mess given the benefits of crony capitalism for politicians, Leftist Deep State operatives and green industry profiteers.

  21. Bob Cherba

    Thank you for the article, Russell. As a long-retired power company engineer, director, consultant, it was good to see the “Silence of the Grid Experts” in print. It expresses what I’ve been thinking for some time. I spent 15 years with nuclear plants in a state where we were virtually demonized out of business. Business people, politicians, some activist regulators and the general public don’t understand utility financing and regulation and think utilities are guaranteed a fat profit no matter how poorly they are managed. Power companies can, have and probably still do go out of business.

    Other than rebuilding grid systems damaged or destroyed by a natural or man-made disaster, power companies must get permission from multiple “somebodies” for revising or building facilities. And they must do it within federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Nowadays, utilities have very few unregulated activities. Do they “play nice” with their regulators and customers? You bet your life they do. And it’s a major reason you don’t hear much publicly from utility employees in opposition to the “green new deal.”

    The ”green” activists, their public and supporting politicians are convinced they’re right and are going to save the earth (or at least get rid of capitalism). As others have commented, utilities and their employees are simply portrayed as greedy people, lying about the problems ahead with solar/wind/batteries, etc., to maintain their excessive monopoly profits. Speak up and you get cancelled.

  22. There is an upcoming Supreme Court case that could put a huge stumbling block in the path of over-reaching Federal Agencies. Frankly, it would be such a blessing if the Chevron precedent were thrown out.

    The Supreme Court’s conservative majority may soon have a chance to dramatically limit the power of federal regulators.

    In recent years, the justices’ high-profile cases have been on the front lines of the culture wars as they decided issues like guns, abortion and religion. For the high court’s next term, however, administrative law is shaping up to be a focal point.

    The justices this week agreed to take up a case that asks them to overrule a 39-year-old precedent that gives federal agencies deference in rulemaking that Congress hasn’t clearly authorized.

    That decision could have wide-ranging impacts that scale back the executive branch’s authority to implement certain environment, employment, drug and other regulations when the justices decide whether to overrule the court’s 1984 decision in Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, known as the Chevron deference.

    • Beta Blocker

      In the fall of 2022, after the West Virginia versus EPA decision was handed down, senior Biden Administration officials said publicly, explicitly, and unequivocally that they will ignore any court decisions which are adverse to their climate change agenda.

      And so if the Supreme Court decision in the upcoming Chevron case goes against them, it is likely they will take the same stance and refuse to comply with the SCOTUS decision.

      The EPA will soon be attempting to directly regulate America’s carbon emissions. The options include some combination of classifying carbon GHG’s as criteria pollutants under Sections 108 and 110 of the Clean Air Act, and creating a Clean Power Plan 2.0 under other sections of the act.

      Either way, the EPA’s authority to directly regulate carbon emissions will be challenged in the courts. If the Biden Administration is true to its word, it will simply ignore any decision which determines that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to directly regulate carbon GHG’s.

      Add yet one more constitutional crisis to the ones which are now developing.

      • JJBraccili

        Over the years, the Supreme Court has expanded its power at the expense of the other branches of the federal government. They are an unelected, and unaccountable, with absolute power over the federal government.

        It all started with Marbury vs. Madison where the court took the power to strike down laws and interpret the constitution for itself. Nowhere in the constitution is the Supreme Court given those powers. It is an implied power or so they claim. It was so controversial that the Supreme Court didn’t exercise it again until 50 years later with the Dred Scott decision.

        In Roe, the Supreme Court found that there is an implied right to privacy in the constitution that is the basis for a right to abortion. In Dobbs, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to privacy because it is not explicitly granted in the constitution. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

        What Biden should do is declare judicial review and the court’s ability to interpret the constitution unconstitutional. He has as much right to do so as the Supreme Court does. The ability of any court to judicial review or interpreting the constitution must be granted by the congress. What’s the Supreme Court going to do about it? Write an opinion? The constitution gives them no ability to enforce any of their opinions.

      • Bill Fabrizio

        JJB …

        The Constitution is an attempt to balance power … ‘checks and balances’ … amongst the three branches. The purpose is to avoid the government from becoming a tyranny. This article below, siting the role of the courts, is as good an explanation as you’ll see, without having to read not only The Federalist Papers, but the complete history of Colonial America.

        You may chafe that this comes from The Heritage Foundation, but I would advise you to read it with an open mind.

        While your statement that the Supreme Court (and by implication the Federal Court System) has expanded its power over the years may be correct, it has not been at the expense of the other branches. Actually, the entire government has expanded its reach. This can seen quite simply with the volume of laws produced by Congress, the proliferation of Executive Orders and, very troubling, the rise of the Administrative Law Courts, which are courts of law under the Executive Branch.

        Your call for Biden to declare the SC’s ability to interpret the Constitution, unconstitutional … would completely negate the Constitution and the very history of America itself. It is a call for dictatorship.

        This is something that we see quite often from groups (left or right) that come to believe that their social programs are not just superior, but MUST be implemented at the expense of any other program or political philosophy. That to not implement their programs/philosophy will result in catastrophe for society. Calling this extremism and dictatorial is accurate as there is no room for dissent.

        For a parallel, you should review the separation of church and state, which is not the elimination of religion (or belief in God) in society but the attempt to allow freedom of religious choice and prevent political domination by a clerisy. Note that a clerisy can be religious or secular. Both are to be assiduously avoided. The Constitution is an attempt to do just that.

      • JJBraccili

        I don’t know when that Heritage piece was written, but it makes my point. Of course, it deals with liberal activism. I’m sure Heritage feels that conservatism activism is just fine and really isn’t activism at all.

        “Your call for Biden to declare the SC’s ability to interpret the Constitution, unconstitutional … would completely negate the Constitution and the very history of America itself. It is a call for dictatorship.”

        Not true. What I said was after the SC is stripped of its power, it is up to the Congress to decide if courts have the power of judicial review and what form it takes. That’s not dictorial. We are one of the very few countries that allows unfettered judicial review. In Great Britian the courts have no right of judicial review.

        Justice Marshall knew that Congress would never grant the courts the right of judicial review. What he did was very controversial at the time. It’s now time for the clock to be rolled back and for the Congress to decide what jurisdiction the courts have.

        “This is something that we see quite often from groups (left or right) that come to believe that their social programs are not just superior, but MUST be implemented at the expense of any other program or political philosophy.”

        Really? I would say it’s just the opposite. Right now, a considerable majority of Americans want guns controlled and an assault weapons ban. They also want abortion legal and accessible. They are getting just the opposite from conservatives and the conservatives on the Supreme Court because they think they know better. Here’s something that should be obvious by now: conservatism doesn’t work. The first conservative president of the GOP was Harding followed by Coolidge, followed by Hoover. That period was when modern conservative economic ideology was formed. The result was the Great Depression. Flash forward to the next time conservatives controlled all three branches of government — the 2000s. The result of the same policies was the Great Recession. The Great Recession would have morphed into Great Depression II if conservatives had the time to fully implement their policies for recessions which were identical to what Hoover tried.

        “For a parallel, you should review the separation of church and state, which is not the elimination of religion (or belief in God) in society but the attempt to allow freedom of religious choice and prevent political domination by a clerisy.”

        You have one thing right. The separation of church and state was to prevent a theocracy, which many conservatives believe would be a good idea. In fact, conservative’s least desired form of government is democracy. They feel “vast unwashed” should not have a say in government. Pick your choice of oligarchy, fascism or theocracy and conservatives are for it. In the 30’s, after they blew up the economy, conservatives played footsies with fascism Look up the America First movement and the failed coup that wanted to install General Smedley Butler as president. In the present day, conservatism would like to install Trump as an authoritarian leader in the mold of Orban, Putin, or Eragon. That’s what happens when conservatives are on the brink of becoming a permanent minority party. Democracy can’t deliver victories for conservativism, time to get rid of democracy.

      • dougbadgero

        Dobbs did not overturn the right to privacy, and the right to privacy was not founded in Roe. Ignorance is dangerous and common.

      • JJBraccili

        Dobbs put a serious dent in the right to privacy. Thomas suggested in his opinion that other “rights” the court has granted should be revisited in light of Dobbs — gay rights, contraception, etc. Funny, he forgot to mention interracial marriage. I wonder why? If he was single, I suspect interracial marriage would be on the chopping block as well.

      • Bill Fabrizio

        JJB … If there was an emoji showing a character shaking his head in frustration, I would put it here. Enjoy your evening.

  23. An excellent description of the silence experienced in countries that are implementing green policies (or energy transition policies, if you prefer). The silence of the experts, a consequence of the pressures experts are subject to from policy makers, regulators or certain lobbies, self-censorship explained by business groups or political agendas, are making electric systems more expensive to users and more vulnerable. No surprise then that blackouts, price spikes and other inconveniences are becoming more frequent.

    Thanks for the post -and for many of the previous ones- and for the clarity.

  24. JJBraccili

    In your zeal to build a case against renewable you forgot one thing. We are going to run out of oil and coal.

    BP, based on current reserves and usage rates, estimates oil will last another 50 years. Demand is going nowhere but up. There are undiscovered reserves, but I doubt they are greater than current reserves. Let’s say we have enough oil to last us 50 – 100 years. Then what? Coal is expected to last 90 years based on current reserves and usage rates. Then what?

    You seem to believe that moving to renewables is optional. It is not. Oil provides other critical products. It provides the chemicals used in the production of plastics. We should do everything to preserve it as long as possible while we figure out how to replace it in the, hopefully, distant future. Burning it in large quantities is DUMB!

    The problems you cite, if they are problems, will have to be solved. There is no other choice. Maybe, you’re not capable of solving them, but others, smarter than you, will.

    • I think BP is wrong about natural gas. It seems as if its everywhere given fracking. I think the US has a 500 years supply or some huge number. There are also methane deposits in the deep ocean.

      I also have seen information about US coal that said we had a couple of centuries of supply. But we probably will move away from coal which is dirty. Natural gas is less costly and a lot cleaner in every way.

      • JJBraccili

        None of what you said is correct.

        We will exhaust fossil fuels as follows:

        Oil by 2052

        Natural Gas by 2060

        Coal by 2090

        We will probably find more oil and natural gas, but demand will increase dramatically as well. I wouldn’t bet any of these lasting past 2125.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        When a mining commodity is needed, exploration increases and usually, new deposits are found. After a few good deposits have been found, the pace of exploration typically slackens, especially if some big finds have assured the markets of supply at an acceptable price for some decades. After those decades, the pace can pick up again. It is not quite “boom and bust” each time, but it has an outcome that “stated” reserves can be vastly underestimated because people stopped looking when those decades of sufficiency were shown. It does not always happen this way, but it is often seen. So, when authors claim that there a X or Y 00 years of reserves, you need to treat that as a minimum.

        Geoff S

      • Jj, I believe your reference must be using proven reserves for 2018 or so. But reserves are increasing rapidly due to fracking. Recoverable gas is vastly higher.

      • JJBraccili

        Even if that is true, does it matter?

        Demand off energy increases about 2% per year. Compound that out to 2100 and you’ll have a fourfold increase in energy demand. Oil and gas each provide about the same amount of energy. If we use up oil by 2100, the amount of natural gas we will consume will be eight times what we use today. How long do you think natural gas will last being consumed at those rates.

        Besides that, a huge investment will be required to expand fossil fuel infrastructure to meet demand. When oil is gone, we will still need liquid fuels. That means gas to liquid (GTL) plants will be required. Again, another massive investment in GTL plants. After all that money is spent, oil and natural gas will run out some time in the 22nd century. Then we will be forced to move to renewables and that will require another massive investment.

        Investing in fossil fuels is a waste of money. The smart thing to do is to move to renewables now and save petroleum and natural gas for other uses. You can justify the move to renewables without even considering climate change.

      • Rob Starkey

        JJ writes- ‘Investing in fossil fuels is a waste of money.’

        Response–Investing in fossil fuels provide a positive rate of return on investment meaning it is NOT a waste as you claim.

        JJ writes- The smart thing to do is to move to renewables now and save petroleum and natural gas for other uses. You can justify the move to renewables without even considering climate change.

        Response-Going to renewables to soon wastes resources. When a source is efficient it is economically viable it is adopted. You push an agenda without much merit.

      • JJBraccili

        “Investing in fossil fuels provide a positive rate of return on investment meaning it is NOT a waste as you claim.”

        Just because an investment has a positive rate of return doesn’t mean you put money into it. Fossil fuels have no future. They are going to be regulated out of existence. It’s not the media. The public can see with their own eyes the changes in climate. Seeing is believing. The fossil fuel industry spent billions sowing doubt about climate change. Even they realize it’s over. Now they’re trying to sell the adaptation nonsense.

        Renewables are cheaper than coal. Cost competitive with oil. Soon they will be cheaper than oil and natural gas.

        Why would anyone invest the trillions it will take to meet future energy demand into an old dead-end technology?

        “Going to renewables to soon wastes resources. When a source is efficient it is economically viable it is adopted. You push an agenda without much merit.”

        It’s not too soon. Renewables are economically viable. Private equity is heavily invested in renewables. Fossil fuels had their day, but their time is over.

      • Joe - the non climate scientist

        JJB’s comment – “Renewables are cheaper than coal. Cost competitive with oil. Soon they will be cheaper than oil and natural gas.”

        Are renewables cheaper than natural gas and oil?

        The LCOE methodology which is used to demonstrate that renewables are cheaper has numerous flaws.

        First – Overstated numerator and understated denominator.

        The second error is the logic error.
        Electric generation demand fits into three main buckets:

        Renewables by their very nature only produce in the middle intermediate bucket. Due to their wide fluctuations, renewables will never perform properly as base, likewise renewables will never perform properly as peak load.

        Any guesses as to the LCOE of renewables for peak load generation or LCOE of renewables for base load generation. A reasonable estimate is 10x-20x the LCOE for the intermediate electric generation.
        Compare apples with apples

      • JJBraccili

        Engineers smarter than you will figure it out. I’m not an electrical engineer, but I’ve solved problems more difficult than an intermittency problem. The “problems” you cite will be solved because they have to be. Fossil fuels have no future as an energy source.

        The motto of a good engineer: “The difficult is never a problem. The impossible takes a little longer.”

      • firstcreateyoursitedotcomaccount

        Words here to inform some kid that the same limited-resource arguments get thrown away then rewritten every decade. Likewise, free, cheap, clean fusion energy is right around the corner.

      • Aplanningengineer

        JJ. Intermittency is the easier problem. Asynchronous is the much bigger problem. Problems differ tremendously as to what can be solved and when. Energy density is a big one. Still waiting on jet packs.

      • JJBraccili

        None of that is insurmountable. It will be solved because it has to be.

      • Peter Cunningham

        The discussion following the article has typically turned into a charade of Green nonsense and anal detail. No good can come from this petty point scoring nonsense.
        The simple realities are:
        (1) Humans need stop crapping in our air, our water and on our land – simple as that,

        (2) So called “Renewables” are NOT a solution for for grid distributed electrical power as they are an expensive, disruptive, polluting problem – not a benefit.

        (3) So called “Renewables” are suited to specific off grid applications.

        (4) The term “energy” is an overused generalisation that results in confusion and problems.
        Grid distributed energy is different to portable energy, as are the ways to create thermal energy for use in manufacture.

        (5) Always will be a place for Coal, for Oil and for Gas …. the trick is to allocate those to specific functions.

        (6) Don’t demonise ANY form of energy – attend to the two that cause the most damage, and that’s the generation of electricity and portable fuels, ie: Coal and Oil.

        (7) If I had my way, I would continue the hike in electricity prices at the current level for economic stability, and cease Solar and Wind generation for applications connected to the grid, and direct those funds to implementing inherently safe modern forms of nuclear power – including fast breeder reactors to progressively eliminate nuclear weapons and waste stockpiles by using that waste constructively.

        (8) Last: Take on that task as if all nations were at war. The only time people and nations unite is in times of warfare – times of destruction. True leaders would take on that task, but instead, supposed “Peace Loving” nations have economies centred around warfare,

        Reverse that situation and BINGO – we ALL benefit.

        Now that wasn’t; too hard …. was it?

        Peter Cunningham

      • “(1) Humans need stop crapping in our air, our water and on our land – simple as that,”

        Something I agree with.

        “(2) So called “Renewables” are NOT a solution for for grid distributed electrical power as they are an expensive, disruptive, polluting problem – not a benefit.”


        Renewables are cost competitive with fossil fuels today and will be the cheaper by 2030.

        The complaints on this thread have been renewables are not suitable for grid power because they are intermittent. Some of that can be mitigated by placement of solar and wind. Wind farms can be located offshore where the wind is more predictable. Then there are storage options like batteries. If you don’t like batteries, there is anhydrous ammonia. Then there are carbon neutral fuels like bio diesel and Fisher Tropsch fuels. These are carbon-based fuels where the carbon is drawn from the atmosphere and will not contribute carbon to the atmosphere when burned. These fuels cannot be produced in the quantities necessary to replace fossil fuels, but they are more than capable of supplementing wind and solar. Lastly, there is nuclear power if the waste problem can be solved. The solution and the end of the use of fossil fuels lies in a combination of these technologies.

        If you want to learn more about Fisher Tropsch fuels, here’s a place to begin:

        “(4) The term “energy” is an overused generalisation that results in confusion and problems.”

        Nonsense! Climate change is all about energy. You can’t use the term enough.

        “(5) Always will be a place for Coal, for Oil and for Gas …. the trick is to allocate those to specific functions.”

        Not for use as a fuel. They need to be preserved as a cheap source of petrochemicals. lubricants, and asphalt. The alternative sources for these products, if any, are more expensive.

      • Expanding on PE, asynchronous has real problems with power quality and behaviour under fault conditions. These cause real issues for downstream users. The “fixes” so far don’t seem to work and are very expensive.
        For grid security, they need to be proven to work under both a lot of arduous testing and field experience. The latter shows up things that no-one could have predicted. They weren’t there when all plant was high inertia and locked on to the grid. Odessa 2022 showed that the fixes from Odessa 2021 didn’t work. Same with problems occurring under the radar in Australia. A fault in Queensland trips one of the unreliables in South Australia, hundreds of miles and through many substations & interstate transformers away. This was despite all the fixes from 2016 and uprated connection compliance rules.

      • Joe - the non climate scientist

        JJBraccili | May 14, 2023 at 10:34 am |
        “Renewables are cost competitive with fossil fuels today and will be the cheaper by 2030.”

        JJB – Anyone making that claim doesnt understand basic costs of electric generation nor understands the difference in base electric demand, intermediate demand or peak demand.

        Renewables can not fulfill either the base load demand or peak electric demand.

        The proper comparison is
        LCOE renewable vs fossil fuel for base load,
        LCOE – renewable vs fossil fuel for peak demand
        LCOE – renewable vs fossil fuel for intermediate demand

        You will notice that you cant compare LCOE for the first two since renewables cant perform in that space. The second point is that the cost of peak demand and fulfilling base demand are vastly more expensive than the cost of fulfilling intermediate demand. Thus comparing total LCOE for intermediate demand vs total LCOE for base, intermediate and peak demand, and therefore claiming renewables are cost competitive is intentionally deceptive. Along with an easy way to fool people who dont have a better grasp of the subject matter.

      • Peter Cunningham

        Spot on Joe.
        The other SIMPLE factor as to why so called “renewables” when connected to a grid distribution network can never be cheaper, is that they do not address the baseload needs that must inexorably churn along 24/7 regardless of transient inputs.

        Zealots and the ignorant simply can’t get it into their heads that so called ‘renewables’ have impact ONLY on already relatively clean emissions from the combustion of gas.

        In effect, connecting so called “renewables” to the grid is disruptive and variable in timing and in quantity, therefore much of which goes to waste (that’s another subject – but is either used on utilities such as pumping water and poo here and there, or in certain locations, dumped to earth.

        Finally – Basic 101 economics is that if an investment of X is utilised only a third of a day, then the cost of that output will be three times more expensive … it is impossible to be cheaper unless trillions are exported from the ignorant public to “save the planet’ type noble causes.

    • Don’t worry about China, India, Pakistan, and others – they will happily burn coal. Hundreds of years worth of that and cheap to boot. What’s not to like?

    • The problem with oil as a raw material is that it will get very expensive if production isn’t also for energy in gasoline, etc. As a raw material for other uses, like plastics, is a relatively small market. Small production = large price!

      • JJBraccili

        Not really.

        I suspect most, if not all, of the major oil companies will be toast. None of them has the management that is going to be able to adjust to the new reality.

        Refineries will be much smaller tailored to produce products other than fossil fuels and will be combined with chemical plants. Chemical companies will be the new refiners.

        Law of supply and demand will still apply. As long as there is ample competition, I don’t see soaring prices.

      • JJB – reality hasn’t changed. It is what it has always been. Fossil fuels are relatively cheap, an efficient energy source, are a known entity, and with infrastructure in place. The reality for unreliable wind and solar is that they are not a solution for our growing energy needs.

        In short, politicians don’t dictate reality, nature does.

    • says:

      Based on U.S. coal production in 2021, of about 0.577 billion short tons, the recoverable coal reserves would last about 435 years, and recoverable reserves at producing mines would last about 21 years.

      Acting like coal is about to run out is like the Mayflower Pilgrims worrying about conserving firewood so their descendants could have a more sustainable 21st century energy policy.

      If we’re still shoveling coal into boilers in 435 years, we’ve done something wrong because it screws the timeline all up.

      2063 Zefram Cochrane achieves warp travel
      2161 United Federation of Planets founded
      2266 James Kirk takes command of the Enterprise
      2364 Jean Luc Picard takes command of Enterprise D
      2402 Enterprise D’s old crew saves Earth from Borg
      2458 The US is runs out of coal

    • Once we get past the generations of fear mongering, this will surpass solar and wind as the system of the future.

      “ Westinghouse unveils small modular nuclear reactor”

    • JJB,
      In writing above about people at the tops of organisations, the Chiefs, being rare and having to deal with experiences that few other people will have, I mentioned criticism coming “knowingly” from people who have never been there.
      JJB, if you examine your own words here, you might find that you are the very model of a modern knowing gentleman.
      Geoff S

  25. Martin Caxton

    We live in an age of arbitary decision making. As a result major policy errors occur. Anyone speaking out is criticized and there is may be a threat of being sidelined and their career damaged. We are past the point where a rational debate can be undertaken where people can express their views without fear. Without this basic right the whole structure of society is being endermined.

  26. Your first reason that speaking out could result in negative consequences is very much like the dynamic in CFD. There is a very real fear that admitting negative results for your code might lead to loss of funding. Thus, there is an unspoken rule that you shouldn’t talk too much about negative results.

  27. Our AP1000® reactor is already proving itself every day around the globe. Currently, four units utilizing AP1000 technology are operating in China, setting performance records. Six more are under construction in China and one AP1000 reactor is operating at Plant Vogtle in Georgia while a second nears completion.

    • But then naturally, progress on a sensible, reliable energy source attracts loonies like moths around a flame.

      ATLANTA (CN) — Two nonprofits filed an petition Monday in an effort to strike down a Georgia Public Service Commission decision to allow the continued expansion of Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear power.

      In a complaint filed in the Fulton County Superior Court, the nonprofit Georgia Interfath Power & Light and the Partnership for Southern Equity claim the commission violated its own rules and state law in allowing Georgia Power to continue its $25 billion nuclear expansion project at Plant Vogtle.

      The commission voted on December 21, 2017, to continue the project despite a five-year delay and an almost-doubled budget.

      The expansion is now scheduled for completion in November 2022. Plant Vogtle is the only nuclear plant currently under construction in the United States.

  28. Bill Fabrizio

    Thank you, Russell.

  29. The German Energiewende (shift to unreliable wind and solar) has been so successful, that not only does Germany have to subsidize wind and solar projects, it now has to subsidize the ENTIRE power system output! I’m telling you, the Climate Doomers are true geniuses.

    BERLIN, May 5 (Reuters) – The German economy ministry proposed a subsidised industrial electricity price of 6 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in a statement released on Friday.

    The subsidy would be in place until 2030 and would cost between 25 billion euros ($27.56 billion) and 30 billion euros based on current market prices

    Last year, Berlin introduced electricity and gas price caps to shield industry and households from rising energy prices, but companies in Germany say electricity prices are still too high compared with other countries.

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  32. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Storms drenched California for months and piled on epic amounts of snow in the Sierra Nevada. The state’s May 1 snowpack clocked in at 254% of average for the date.

  33. Ireneusz Palmowski

    When will the snowfall in the Sierra Nevada end?

  34. In response to the outmoded (thank god!) fear of current nuclear reactors, there is an excellent article on Chernobyl in
    with a comment by (ahem!) a radiologist:
    “As a radiologist, I applaud this article for its attention to facts and not fears. An addition might be the allegation that vodka was involved in the disaster. And the engineering slogan that you “never read a gauge without tapping it first”.

    But all that aside, a current nuclear plant will be at least as safe as a gas plant. And won’t besmirch the landscape with turbines (that require diesel motors to keep them moving in still air) and solar farms that displace agriculture and pollute with toxic lithium in production and in disposal. And its expense will drop when NIMBY litigation ceases or eases.

    Also worthy of mention is radiation hormesis, the fact that a little bit of radiation is actually good for you, shown by that apartment complex in Taiwan built with cobalt-90 contaminated steel, and the history of xray tech medics in training for WWII, xraying each other in the field with unshielded portable machines. Lower incidences of all cancers including leukemia. As with salt, a little bit is good and a lot is bad.

    In my career, I received over 3 rads per year for 20 years doing angio and invasive procedures using fluoroscopy, and about 1 rad/yr doing routine work the rest of the 30 years. The federal limit for occupational exposure was 4 rad/year.”
    Background radiation averages 240 millirads/year.

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  37. Ireneusz Palmowski

    More snow in the Sierra Nevada.

  38. What a great article.

    The goal should be plentiful, cheap, and reliable energy with NO interruption of service EVER. I live in Texas, a state with huge energy reserves. We should stop the continued spread and contrived market penetration of wind and solar collectors until they develop enough through innovation to match fossil and nuclear fuels for efficiency.

    In the climate disaster of 2021, I had to provide shelter for five days to an old veteran who was in the early stages of dementia and his daughter who had cancer. They lived next door and had electric heat only. If they had stayed in their house they could have frozen to death. I had a large wood burning stove that kept us warm. In five days we ran through all my ample wood pile. We had to boil snow on my gas stove to get water to flush the toilets because the water service froze at the street.

    The good news is that the energy catastrophe that year appears to have rattled the powers that be into action, although they are still warning of blackouts this summer when it gets hot.

  39. When outages occur, it’s hard to figure out where blame lies now.
    This is a feature, not a bug…

  40. Ireneusz Palmowski

    The heaviest snowfall is forecast on the summits above 6,000 feet — up to 10 inches. Snow is expected to range between 4 to 6 inches near Yosemite Valley and Mammoth Lakes. The Lake Tahoe area is expected to see 2 to 4 inches.

    Winds are also expected to pick up Saturday afternoon as the low-pressure system’s cold front passes, leading to 25 to 30 mph gusts along the I-80 pass between Auburn and Reno as well as Highway 120 toward Yosemite. Blowing snow will become an issue in the evening, reducing visibility and raising a slight risk for whiteout conditions.

  41. Climate Doomers oppose Texas building out natural gas plants and some other common sense proposals.

    As it passed the Senate, SB 7 would assign the costs of ancillary services and the newly created DRRS to renewable energy. Remember, clean energy saved Texans $28 billion over the last decade.

    • In his article linked above, Doug Lewin omits the fact that SB7 provides for charges to dispatchable as well as unreliable wind and solar electricity suppliers. Looks like he is afraid that any ancillary cost charges whatsoever will doom unreliable energy. But SB7 is fair:

      allocates the cost of providing ancillary services and reliability services procured under this section on a semiannual basis among dispatchable generation facilities, non-dispatchable generation facilities, and load serving entities in proportion to their contribution to unreliability during the highest net load hours in the preceding six months, as determined by the commission based on a number of hours adopted by the commission for that six-month period, as follows

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  43. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Winter is coming to Australia.

  44. Ireneusz Palmowski

    This is not the end of snowfall in the mountains of Kalifornia.

  45. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Snowfall in the mountains in Australia.

  46. “ After one trucking company tried to electrify just 30 trucks at a terminal in Joliet, Illinois, local officials shut those plans down, saying they would draw more electricity than is needed to power the entire city.

    A California company tried to electrify 12 forklifts. Not trucks, but forklifts. Local power utilities told them that’s not possible.”

    The quote is from testimony by the American Trucking Association before the US Senate. If true, and if accurate, it’s staggering, especially the impact from just 30 trucks. Another reason to proceed with extreme caution.

  47. Bill Fabrizio

    Planning for a stable grid and planning for sufficient water resources have much in common, particularly the resistance of a myopic environmental movement that has ascended to powerful political prominence, which has neither the ability nor the desire to solve problems outside its narrow purview.

    • Peter Cunningham

      Indeed so Bill – but you forgot “Selfish”.
      The righteous are always myopic.
      Their world tends to be idealistic, not practical so they selfishly pursue their ideals irrespective of facts.
      The end result is that some feel good about achieving usually nothing, and the ability to do anything actually constructive is destroyed,

  48. “ The U.S. grid faces major reliability challenges, according to members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who used the word 34 times in their prepared testimony Thursday at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

    There is a “looming reliability crisis in our electricity markets,” FERC Commissioner James Danly said.

    “The United States is heading for a very catastrophic situation in terms of reliability,” FERC Commissioner Mark Christie said.

    FERC Acting Chairman Willie Phillips said, “We face unprecedented challenges to the reliability of our nation’s electric system.”

    Growing reliability and resilience challenges from extreme weather and cyber and physical security threats require changes to the U.S. grid, according to FERC Commissioner Allison Clements.”

  49. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #551 – Watts Up With That?

  50. Germany isn’t doing well. No analysis of why in this article. I do know plants have been closing down due to high electricity prices.

    Germany’s Industrial Plunge Revives Winter Recession Fears

    Poor performance is latest in raft of bad data for March
    1Q GDP estimate could be revised down, ING economist says

  51. The UN has hit a fossil fuels road block. Oil isn’t going away any time soon!

    Read more: A Kingdom Built on Oil Now Controls the World’s Climate Progress

    Al Jaber said at last week’s climate event that diplomats should focus on phasing out emissions from oil and gas, rather than eliminating those fuels themselves. That’s seen as leaving the door open for burning oil and gas while scaling up carbon capture technologies.

    EU diplomats aren’t convinced. “I don’t think carbon capture is going to get us there,” said Jennifer Morgan, Germany’s climate envoy, in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “What we really need to see, and I think that countries of the world will bring that forward, is the end of the fossil fuel era and the build up of renewables.”

  52. Yet another snag in Germany’s Climate Doomer “green” (unreliable) energy plan. Adaptation is the key, not mitigation.

    This is a problem for the broader economy, including a planned digital transformation to address complaints about low broadband access. But it’s a particular problem for the energy industry.

    The cost of future-proofing Germany’s energy system is projected to exceed $1 trillion by 2030, according to BloombergNEF. That means a huge amount of new infrastructure, and building all of that is complicated by the unmapped morass of underground cables.

    “With Germany moving at such a slow pace, the country risks missing its climate goals,” said Nadine Bethge, deputy head of energy and climate for advocacy group Environmental Action Germany.

  53. @ jim2 | May 8, 2023 at 8:01 am in suspense.

  54. This reminds me of something from 2014 submission in N. Ireland which mentioned to lack of public consultation. However, it goes further in that it alludes to SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation).
    We now have a new danger in our midst, the consequences of an incident with grid scale lithium batteries where we have another, “Silence of the Grid”.

  55. Climate Doomers continually whine about sea level rise. In many places sea level rise isn’t a reason to move entire communities. However, there is another reason to move communities, and adding 3 feet to it won’t change the outcome at all.

    When it does, it will send waves surging outward at initial speeds of up to 600 miles an hour. Less than an hour after the quake, they will inundate the coast up to an elevation of 100 feet above sea level in some spots, more typically 30 to 60 feet, depending on bathymetry, tides and other factors. They will sweep up buildings, trees, vehicles, people. Anyone along the shore who feels the shaking will need to head immediately for high ground, and they will need to do so on foot — roads will likely be damaged and even if they aren’t, traffic will quickly snarl. Those who dawdle, walk too slowly, or pause to collect keepsakes or help the injured will court disaster.

    • Rob Starkey

      Sea level has been rising for hundreds of years at very close to the current rate. CO2 induced warming has done little to nothing to accelerate the issue. Climate doomers complain about sea level rise as the number one problem but the fact is it’s not a CO2 driven issue.

  56. Bill Fabrizio

    “Despite soaring demand and available capital even before the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, U.S. clean power installations dipped 16% last year and 12% over 2020, according to the American Clean Power Association. It was the worst year for land-based wind installations since 2018.”

    Wind and solar are becoming more expensive as local objections rise. In New York and Illinois the state is stepping up efforts to negate local laws preventing/delaying installations.

  57. Climate activists now dominate the press and public policy process, largely ignoring the IPCC’s physical scientists and WG1 reports. See the IPCC Synthesis Report, converted into claims that the Earth will become uninhabitable (said by the UN Secretary General, the Pope, etc).

    Climate scientists’ silence even to wild claims endorse these activists. This deference has made climate science irrelevant to public policy.

    We can’t change the radical greens’ policies, so we discuss their effects and how to prepare. Articles like this and others at Climate Etc lead the way.

    When the effects of these policies become blindingly obvious, then it might (might!) become possible to change them. The passive acceptance of rapidly rising electricity prices and renewable subsidies – amidst continued claims that green energy is cheap – indicates that the Left’s growing hold on our societies will be difficult to overcome.

    Mockery and pearl-clutching won’t do it. Nor will parading facts before those who already know.

  58. Russell,
    Can you comment on this WuWT article:
    It says that one of the problems impacting reliability is the conversion of natural gas compressors from natural gas fueled to electrical.
    While the map shows that this changeover appears largely in the primary systems, this isn’t necessarily comforting.
    Note that I assume such infrastructure systems are excluded during planning black/brown outs – but they are likely not immune for unplanned ones.

  59. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Galactic radiation data from Oulu indicate that the magnetic activity of the solar wind is at a similar level in cycle 25 as it was in cycle 24. This is consistent with the predicted behavior of the solar magnetic field by Zharkova. Cycle 26 is already expected to be much weaker.

  60. Bill Fabrizio

    “What if every car was an EV?”
    “Transitioning the global vehicle fleet to EVs will add an addition 200 million tons of CO2 per year to the atmosphere.”

    This is based on the current mix of power sources. It would seem nuclear is the only answer for those who advocate going electric.

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  63. While Germany shuts down reliable coal plants, it then warns the energy crisis isn’t over.

    While energy prices have plunged from last summer’s highs, analysts have warned that a sudden rebound in demand and increased competition from Asia for supplies could reignite volatility in the market.

    The firm’s expectation for adjusted earnings to remain broadly in line with last year’s results “factors in the possibility of a further deterioration in the remainder of the year,” Spieker said. EON sees results “towards the upper end” of its guidance of €7.8 billion to €8 billion this year.

  64. @ jim2 | May 10, 2023 at 7:35 am in suspense.

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  66. drgenenelson

    Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right-hand man noted that, “Outcomes follow incentives.” As Meredith Angwin noted in her 2020 book, Shorting the Grid : The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid the incentives are now for an unreliable grid – with no one responsible for reliability in regions with a ISO or RTO. I believe the problem is inherent in the ISO or RTO model, which tends to deliver higher returns to economic elites. A root cause was the 2005 repeal of provisions against utilities directly lobbying state utility regulators that was a component of the 1935 PUHCA. Utilities in states without RTOs and ISOs deliver lower-cost reliable power, since state utility regulators impose heavy fines for allowing power blackouts. This speaks strongly for labeling RTOs and ISOs as “failed experiments” that should be abolished.

  67. @ Peter Cunningham | May 13, 2023 at 10:52 pm |
    “(1) Humans need stop crapping in our air, our water and on our land – simple as that,”

    Now that is some genuine disinformation. Although Pete didn’t come out and say CO2 made by man, the omission of that doesn’t excuse the hype. CO2 is plant food and essential to our well being. It most certainly isn’t crap. Get honest Pete.

    • Peter Cunningham

      Jim2 Jim – You missed the point.
      CO2 is plant food – it is necessary to produce their cellulose structures and in turn food for much of life on this planet.

      Not even the IPCC has demonstrated that CO2 is A driver of temperatures, let alone THE driver of global temperature change – a historic regularity.

      CO2 isn’t the problem, it’s all the other by-products of burning fossil fuels and manufacturing and along with single use items, and products made for planned obsolescence and so on – all of which require both resources and energy to r3ecyuyclke – IF they are designed in the first place with that in mind.

      Target what we can do NOW, and that’s generation of grid distributed energy, for the creation also of portable energy used in land transportation.

      The only way to achieve that is the modern nuclear process, so let’s stop playing green games and do something to help us and the planet.

  68. JJBraccili

    So, CO2 is plant food and essential to life? What happened on Venus? Venus has lots of CO2 with no plants and no life? NASA has stated that Venus had sufficient water at one point to support life. What happened?

    This is too easy.

    • Peter Cunningham

      With a surface temperature of @480C, I am not surprised that plants can’t grow there …… the relevance of your stunning input is what?

  69. JJBraccili

    I see you conveniently missed the part where I talked about other technologies that can complement solar and wind. To refresh your memory, there are carbon neutral fuels, batteries, anhydrous ammonia, and nuclear. A couple of regional energy sources I forgot to mention are hydro and geothermal. A combination of these technologies will end the use of fossil fuels, but solar and wind will be the primary energy sources.

    I guess you missed the article I posted on how the TX GOP is proposing legislation to prop up fossil fuels because they cannot compete with renewables. I’ll post it again:

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