Extreme weather and insufficient infrastructure combine to put power generation and delivery at risk during times when they are needed the most. And this is becoming a common occurrence.
Recent projections say another similar event is likely to occur this winter. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) released its 2023-24 winter outlook, which identifies, assesses and reports on areas of concern regarding the reliability of the North American bulk power system (BPS) for the upcoming winter season. The report makes some dire predictions.
According to the outlook, more than half of the United States and parts of Canada could face power shortages this winter. The possible shortages could affect an area where around 180 million people live.
The shortages could be caused by a combination of extreme weather in the winter months and insufficient natural gas infrastructure. NERC warns that the conditions could threaten the reliability of bulk power generation and the availability of fuel supplies for natural gas-fired generation.
The report notes that in recent winter events over 20% of generating capacity has been forced offline when freezing temperatures extended over areas that do not typically experience these conditions.
Against this backdrop, the outlook identifies the U.S. Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and South, along with some Canadian provinces, at the highest risk for electricity supply shortages this winter.
This could affect grid operators such as Midcontinent ISO, PJM Interconnection, SERC Reliability Corp and Texas’ ERCOT. Gas pipelines in New England could also be affected.
Simply put, "there is not enough natural gas pipeline and infrastructure to serve all the gas generation" that is needed, said John Moura, NERC's director of reliability assessment and system analysis.
NERC adds that load forecasting in winter is growing in complexity, and underestimating demand is a risk to reliability in extreme cold temperatures.