New York’s electrical grid could fail as early as 2023, if the state experiences a sustained 98-degree heat wave. That’s according to the New York Independent System Operator’s (NYISO) recently released Power Trends 2022 report. 

The report is required reading for anyone who thinks seriously about the Empire State’s energy future, and its unwelcome news is the same as in last year’s report – electricity reliability margins are shrinking, putting the grid at risk of a catastrophic collapse.  

NYISO does not back down from the warning given in their 2021-2030 Comprehensive Reliability Plan that the state may soon reach a “tipping point” where electricity production and transmission capabilities are insufficient to meet demand.  

The reason why is no mystery – under existing state environmental policies, the state is losing reliable electricity generation resources faster than  new ones are being brought on line. 

The report notes that the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) requires new weather-dependent renewable energy sources, while the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) “Peaker Rule” mandates the closure of many high-emissions fossil fuel plants that are fired up to meet peak demand. 

As the report says, deactivating existing generation sources before we have new sources that are just as reliable puts at risk “the ability to maintain a reliable electrical system.” This risk grows if new projects get delayed for any reason.  

The CLCPA will also require the eventual shutdown of lower-emissions fossil fuel plants to meet the law’s 2040 mandate of 100 percent zero-emissions electricity. To ensure continued reliability, New York needs emissions-free resources that are available on demand. 

NYISO presumes these sources will be some combination of renewable natural gas and hydrogen, but notes that such resources are not yet commercially available. And nobody knows when they will be.  

Granted, both the Peaker Rule and the CLCPA have exceptions built in for power plants that are needed for system reliability. But the DEC has already denied permits for two natural gas facilities, and the sentiment of climate activists is strongly set against any continued fossil fuel use. 

The question of maintaining system reliability while achieving grid decarbonization “has become a central issue” for NYISO, because it has responsibility for planning grid reliability. But it has not yet become a central issue for the DEC and climate activists.  

Maybe it will when the power goes out during an extreme weather event, the cost of which will be measured in human lives. 

We all want cleaner energy, but it’s important that we not rush recklessly into a future of unreliable weather-dependent energy resources. NYISO is trying to warn us, but are we listening?

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