Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Power, War and CO2 Emissions

 2022 will prove to be a year when the world as we knew it shifted and changed. Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was in part responsible for our changed views. As Putin has turned the war in Ukraine to mass civilian attacks using missiles and drones armed with high explosives targeting cities and the power infrastructure it appears he has pulled out the old playbook:  to terrorize the population so they would lose the will to fight and surrender. Instead, this war has strengthened our NATO alliance. It has become clear that our NATO partners are our friends. China, Russia and Iran are not.

Ukraine’s air defenses are weak, and Ukraine cannot retaliate in kind. Putin thinks strategic air attacks are his winning card. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in the United States this month with the goal to improve Ukraine’s air defenses. The United States needs to stop worrying about provoking Putin and worry about helping Ukraine stop him.

We have also learned over and over that China is not our friend and is eying expansion through invasion and proving they are the rightful first among nations.  We must rebuild our waning military and not allow it to suffer the same decay as Russia’s. Stand with our friends, arming and training them ahead of invasion is a good plan, too. The surveillance state and thought police are bad. We need to hear all voices or be caught unaware.

The war in Ukraine has also changed how we look at power, dependence on other nations, infrastructure and power generation portfolio.  Though the United States, the European Union and others have imposed economic sanctions on Russia and have announced plans to wean themselves off that country’s fossil fuels; Russia still supplies 40% of the natural gas for the European Union. As energy prices soared worldwide the United States went begging to other nations to produce more oil and gas. The only nation we did not encourage to produce more oil and gas was our own.

As Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan tweeted “This is national security suicide. shuts down energy production in America—particularly in Alaska—then goes on bended knee to dictators in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia & Venezuela, begging them to produce more energy.”

Our leaders discussed windfall profits tax on energy companies and drew down 180 million barrels of our strategic oil reserve.  We need to look at our own energy portfolio and power use. Sustainability and reliability are as important as decarbonizing the electric generation in the United States. Extreme temperatures and prolonged severe weather conditions are increasingly impacting our power systems.

Extreme weather impacts increases electricity demand and forcing generation and other resources off-line. At the same time preference is given to the use of natural gas for heating rather than electricity generation. While the PJM has sufficient capacity to meet resource adequacy requirements, it may not have sufficient availability of resources during extreme and prolonged weather events as we almost discovered Christmas weekend. Peak electricity demand is increasing, and forecasting demand and its response to extreme temperatures and abnormal weather is increasingly uncertain. Specifically, electrification of residential heating requires the system to serve especially high demand on especially cold days.

Over Christmas weekend PJM and Dominion Power requested the public in its region to conserve electricity. Suggesting that electricity customers take simple electricity conservation steps such as:

  •  Setting thermostats lower than usual, if health permits.
  • Postponing use of major electric appliances such as stoves, dishwashers and clothes dryers until other times, and
  • Turning off non-essential electric lights, equipment and appliances.

The call for conservation was prompted by the inadequacy of our power supply to meet the demands of region wide frigid weather. We are a nation blessed with a plethora of natural resources. If we cannot heat and power our homes and ovens on a very frigid Christmas Eve, we are a declining nation.

Here at home the energy needs of the Commonwealth, its businesses and its families are changing – and growing. Virginia is already the data center capital of the world, and the industry is exploding along with the demand of 24 hours a day 7 days a week power needed to run them. At the same time Virginia has been on a short timeline to decarbonize the grid and electrify transportation and heating. When the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine, or the polar vortex arrives our grid needs to power our lives. 

Virginia has been outsourcing reliable baseload capacity to other states within the PJM, and increasing Virginia’s dependence on electricity imports from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. As a result, supply and transmission of energy to Virginia homes and businesses has the potential to become less reliable than today and could end up with rolling blackouts during both heat spells and cold snaps if we do not plan better.

According to Governor Glenn Youngkin, a growing Virginia must have reliable, affordable and clean energy for Virginia’s families and businesses. The Virginia Energy Plan must meet the power demands of a growing economy and ensures Virginia has that reliable, affordable, clean and growing supply of power by embracing an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes natural gas, nuclear, renewables and the exploration of emerging sources to satisfy the growing needs of Commonwealth residents and businesses.

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