Renewables, Reliability, and Transmission

How do you feel when the lights go out? As was stated in the last post, easy answers are rarely wise answers, especially when complex systems are involved. In addition to raising our costs, the current push for a “100% renewable standard” in Columbia could also adversely affect our reliability of service.

Renewable resources do not function in the same way as dispatchable resources, and this can have unintended consequences for keeping our lights on. This was a lesson learned from the rolling blackouts in California in August of 2020. As we move towards cleaner energy, we should do so in a way that keeps the lights on and at a reasonable cost. This means better understanding the changes in planning assumptions and analysis that are needed to accommodate a shift to renewable resources, monitoring the use of those resources in the real world, and adjusting as needed.

Proponents of the “100% renewable by 2030” standard are also setting up a false dichotomy between the use of renewables for producing energy and the need for new transmission infrastructure. Like other production resources, renewable resources require an adequate transmission and distribution infrastructure. And climate change also increases the need for a resilient transmission infrastructure. Our costs of improving that infrastructure only increase with delay, and those increasing costs will make it more difficult to make the investments that renewable advocates seek.

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