NERC summer assessment warns of potential energy shortfalls

May 26, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
May 26, 2021

Parts of North America are at elevated or high risk of energy shortfalls this summer during above-normal peak temperatures, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warns in its 2021 summer reliability assessment, which it released on May 26,

While NERC’s risk scenario analysis shows adequate resources and energy for most of North America, Texas, New England, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator and parts of the West are at an elevated risk of energy emergencies, NERC said.

In the high risk category is California, which relies on large energy imports during peak demand scenarios and when solar resource output retreats in the evening hours. While more than 3 gigawatts of additional resources are expected in California this summer compared to 2020, most will be solar photovoltaic (PV) generation, NERC said.

While these plants can provide energy to support peak demand, solar PV output falls off rapidly in late afternoon while high demand often remains, NERC noted. “Reliance on imports during these periods is an increasing reliability risk,” NERC said.

While actions taken by the California Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator and utilities to procure additional resources will help, the Western Interconnection’s increase in demand and decline in resources may reduce the amount of surplus capacity available when California is in shortfall, according to NERC.

As identified in the assessment, abnormal conditions that lead to elevated risk include prolonged above-average temperatures, low wind and solar scenarios, reduced transfers due to wildfire-related transmission outages.

The assessment’s other key findings include:

  • Protecting the critical electrical workforce from health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic remains a priority. “Protocols put in place for reducing risks to personnel in control centers and on the front lines, including mutual assistance in hurricane-damaged areas, should be maintained as warranted by public health conditions. In 2021, there is remaining uncertainty in demand projections as governments adjust to changing public health guidelines and conditions and as the behavior of society adapts”
  • Late summer wildfire season in the western United States and Canada poses risk to bulk power system reliability. Government agencies warn of the potential for above-normal wildfire risk beginning in July in parts of the western United States as well as central and western Canada. Operation of the bulk power system can be impacted in areas where wildfires are active as well as areas where there is heightened risk of wildfire ignition due to weather and ground conditions.

To download the summer reliability assessment, click here.

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