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Reliability and Affordability

As our nation increasingly relies on electricity to power the economy, keeping the lights on has never been more important. Electric cooperatives are committed to powering and empowering local communities at a cost families and businesses can afford.

Where we stand

Policymakers must approach national energy policy with affordability and reliability at the core while also balancing aspiration with reality. They also must recognize the need for time, technology development and new transmission infrastructure before taking our nation down an energy path that prioritizes speed over practicality. NRECA supports efforts to maintain a diverse supply of always available energy technologies that are essential to keeping the lights on.

Digging deeper

On the changing energy landscape

The changing energy landscape requires time and technology beyond what is available today. It must be inclusive of all energy sources to maintain the reliable and affordable flow of power that is the cornerstone of the American economy. As a nation, we are trending toward a future that depends on electricity to power more of the economy. Recent modeling by the Electric Power Research Institute concluded that achieving net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050 could require generation capacity to increase by as much as 480% compared to what is in place today. This increased demand must be accounted for as we plan to meet tomorrow’s energy needs.

The importance of fuel diversity

Electric co-ops rely on a diverse energy mix to ensure a reliable, affordable and responsible electricity supply that meets the needs of their consumer-members. Co-ops thoughtfully explore all options, technologies and ideas as they work to meet the evolving energy needs of their local communities.

“Disorderly” retirement of existing generation

According to the North American Electric Reliability Corp., a not-for-profit entity with regulatory authority over reliability and security of the grid, the “disorderly” retirement of existing generating assets is directly impacting reliability. Many generation assets taken offline in recent years have been replaced with sources providing less capacity, no capacity or capacity that's intermittent and not always available. Reliability has been threatened as a result. In the 15 U.S. states covered by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the number of warnings issued when electric supply is at risk of not meeting demand quadrupled from 2020 to 2021.

Permitting challenges

The current permitting process required to build, site and maintain electric generation and transmission infrastructure is outdated and a significant impediment to meeting tomorrow’s energy needs. Electrifying other sectors of the economy could require a threefold expansion of the transmission grid by 2050, according to the National Academies of Sciences. Just one new transmission project can take up to 10 years to complete due to regulatory hurdles. As an example, Dairyland Electric Cooperative’s Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line Project would connect 115 renewable generation projects in the upper Midwest but has been stalled in costly litigation for years.

Supply chain

Supply chain delays are contributing to an unprecedented shortage of the basic machinery and grid components essential to ensuring continued reliability of the electric system. Prior to 2021, it took an average of 70 days for an electric co-op to receive a distribution transformer after placing an order. The same order today takes an average of 340 days to fulfill—nearly five times as long. These components play a key role in keeping the lights on.

Availability of natural gas

The U.S. is increasingly reliant on natural gas for baseload power and as a backstop for intermittent generation sources. The availability of natural gas has been challenged by several recent extreme weather events. The extreme cold on the East Coast in December 2022 revealed severe shortages when natural gas was not available for power plants.
Featured Video

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson Discusses Grid Reliability at POLITICO Event

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