NERC Summer Assessment Warns of Potential Power Outages in Several Regions

Most areas are forecasting higher peak demand for electricity than last summer, NERC says in its latest reliability assessment. (Photo By: Denny Gainer/NRECA)

Extreme heat could threaten the nation’s energy supply this summer, driving up demand for electricity and potentially causing shortfalls and power outages throughout large swaths of the United States, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. warned in a new report.

The states and regions most at risk are Texas, California, the Southwest, New England and much of the Midwest, according to NERC’s 2024 Summer Reliability Assessment released Wednesday.

The warnings underscore the danger of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently finalized power plant rule, which threatens reliability by forcing the premature closure of power plants at a time when demand for electricity is rising, said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.

“This latest report highlights the importance of always-available energy as our nation works to keep the lights on,” Matheson said. “That’s particularly true as we look towards a future that depends on electricity to power more of the economy. Importantly, this report does not consider the impact of EPA’s power plant rule, which will significantly undermine reliable electricity across the nation.”

Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments, also emphasized that the increased electrification of key sectors of the economy is quickly boosting demand and taxing the grid.

“Demand is growing in many areas at a rapid pace with the adoption of electric vehicles and construction of new data centers, straining some parts of the system,” Olson said.

The NERC report says that “weather services are expecting above-average summer temperatures across much of North America, potentially creating challenging summer grid conditions.”

Most areas are forecasting higher peak demand for electricity than last summer, the report says.

“Above-average seasonal temperatures can contribute to high peak demand as well as an increase in forced outages for generation and some bulk power system equipment.”

NERC found that the delayed retirements of fossil fuel-powered plants coupled with limited new supply “have improved the outlook for 2024” compared to some earlier reports. However, NERC also found that “a growing number of areas in North America face adequacy risks as early as 2025.”

In addition to forecasts for extreme heat this summer, other risk factors cited in the report include continued supply chain delays for utilities seeking to acquire essential equipment and the potential for wildfires in late summer as conditions grow hotter and drier.

NERC’s assessment also warns that the areas most at risk have these additional challenges:

  • New England: The retirement of two natural-gas-fired generators at Mystic Generating Station in Massachusetts this month means that the region will have 1,400 megawatts less capacity this summer, increasing the risk of energy emergencies.
  • The Midwest: While there is some new solar and natural-gas-fired generation in the region, it is being offset in part by generator retirements and mandates to reserve more fuel. If demand rises higher than the normal peak, wind and solar resources may not be enough to meet it.
  • The Southwest: The ongoing severe drought raises the risk that extreme conditions could affect the bulk power system.
  • Texas: There is a risk of emergency conditions in the summer evening hours when solar generation begins to ramp down but demand remains high.
  • California/Mexico: The biggest risk is in the Baja area, which could suffer energy shortfalls if demand is above normal due to widespread extreme heat and solar power output is below normal because of transmission limitations.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.