Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives

Federal policies must recognize reality of compromised electric reliability

October 6, 2023

The following opinion was published in the October 6, 2023, edition of the Washington Times

Randy Feenstra represents Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Chuck Soderberg is executive vice president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Supply chain delays. Disorderly retirements of dispatchable electric generation. Complex regulations on power plant emissions. Regional warnings about a lack of generation capacity to cover electric demand. Permitting delays for needed electric transmission infrastructure.

Any one of these issues is enough to seriously affect the reliability of electric service. But all of these scenarios are playing out simultaneously across the nation, and a perfect storm may be on the horizon.

Electric reliability across America is in serious jeopardy, and it’s unacceptable.

Dispatchable sources of generating electricity such as coal and nuclear power are being retired far too early. Their generation capacity is being replaced by intermittent sources of generation like wind and solar.

The downside: These intermittent sources work only when the wind blows and the sun shines.

Battery storage is not yet feasible for long durations on a utility-scale level. Electricity must be generated as it is being consumed. This becomes a problem when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining and energy consumption is high.

Demand for electricity continues to grow as our society becomes increasingly reliant on electricity.

Locally owned electric cooperatives work hard to provide reliable and affordable electricity for the member-consumers they serve. Co-ops are mission-driven to power lives and empower communities, and they make long-term decisions to ensure power is available when it’s needed.

That’s why we believe in a power generation strategy that prioritizes energy diversity. The adage used for sound investing also applies to power generation: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Iowa’s electric cooperatives use dispatchable sources of power such as coal and natural gas because they can control the output and ramp up generation when needed to match sudden increases in demand. But our ability to provide reliable electricity is in jeopardy.

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency released its proposed rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel-fired electric generating units. The proposal is part of the Biden administration’s misguided regulatory agenda to create a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.

We believe this proposal will further strain our country’s electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation.

And that’s not the only threat we face. The 2023 North American Electric Reliability Corp. summer reliability assessment is the latest in a series of alarming reminders about the new electric reliability challenges facing the nation. Nine states experienced power interruptions last December as the demand for electricity exceeded the available supply.

It’s imperative that policymakers work to prioritize reliability in every energy policy discussion. Federal policies must recognize the compromised reliability reality facing the nation before it’s too late.

The families, farms and businesses served by electric cooperatives deserve affordable and reliable electricity.

For More Information:

Erin Campbell, IAEC Director of Communications
ecampbell@iowarec.org

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