While we are well into the summer and are dealing with the potential challenges of sustaining grid against weather changes, enough time has passed to review the impacts on the grid from the winter. Utility Dive has reported on a study that found “gas-fired generation” plants caused 70 percent of outages in the winter. This kind of information is important for determining the best way to invest in energy for the future.
The report shows how harsh winter storms caused these outages, and they were at unprecedented levels. At the same time, there were several plants that produced more energy than they were expected to. Nuclear plants accounted the most for this kind of energy, with about a third of the share, gas was next with a little under a third, then coal with about half as much as nuclear, followed a bit by wind.
The outages are largely attributed to problems with the internal equipment in the face of severely cold weather. The group that created the study has recommended developing technology to account for predicting and identifying problems in the workings of the power plants to be able to respond quickly promptly to these issues and prevent power plants from going down.
The headline of the initial article could be seen as a response to critics of renewable energy who claim that trying to rely on renewable energy will cause these outrages. But reading beyond the headlines, it is more complicated. As noted above, gas energy did also have the second greatest production of excess energy. Moreover, the recommendations from the report showing all these stats, seems to indicate that the solution more lies in making power plants in general work better, rather than going to other sources of energy. Additionally, the other main two sources of excess energy, nuclear and coal, are often as controversial as natural gas.
Nonetheless, this report does show gas operated plants are not infallible. Still, it would be interesting to see the rates of outages per each energy source. It would also be helpful to know if certain energy sources function better in the cold. Long-term, any type of energy strategy will require diversification, so it is important to listen to warning signs like the stat of the headline from this article, but also to consider them in greater context, such as with the other stats in the article.