Power grid operators in the United States warn of blackouts following increased pressure on the grid this summer.
Record-high temperatures are driving more and more Americans to turn on air conditioning units to keep cool, creating loads that the grid is unable to handle, Reuters reported.
“Federal agencies responsible for power reliability, like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), have warned that grids in the western half of the country could face reliability issues this summer as consumers crank up air conditioners to escape the heat,” the report stated.
Refinitiv details how weather in the United States has climbed to record highs. It is around 21% warmer than the 30-year average.
According to the report, power companies are concerned that they will not be able to find the spare parts to repair the equipment quickly enough to deal with potential outages. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has already asked its customers to cut down on energy use and raise the temperature of air conditioners after six power plants it was operating were forced offline during a brief heatwave in May.
In June, 200,000 Ohio homes and businesses suffered blackouts after a storm damaged powerlines throughout the state. In response, the grid operator was forced to cut power in certain areas to prevent the remaining lines from being overloaded.
The lack of spare parts and equipment includes a shortage of transformers, which convert high voltage electricity into those used to power homes and businesses. According to two industry associations who spoke to Reuters, grid operators have had to wait for upwards of a year for transformer parts.
“You don't want to deplete your inventory because you don't know when that storm is coming, but you know it's coming… If we have successive days of 100-degree-heat, those pole top transformers, they start popping like Rice Krispies, and we would not have the supply stack to replace them,” said Ralph Izzo, head of the New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG).
To make up for the lack of transformer parts and other equipment, grid operators are now changing their maintenance habits to recycle existing equipment.
“We're doing a lot more splicing, putting cables together, instead of laying new cable because we're trying to maintain our new cable for inventory when we need it,” stated Nick Akins, head of the Ohio-based grid operator AEP.