Grid Operators Warn of Shortages as More Electric Vehicles Increase Demand

U.S. electric power generation may see a serious shortfall this year as huge numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) increase power draw and operators retire nuclear, coal, and natural gas plants.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) said that more generation capacity is moving to wind and solar, but renewables aren’t keeping up with demand and traditional plants are being retired quicker than green energy can replace it.

“I am concerned about it,” MISO Chief Executive John Bear told the Wall Street Journal in a report Sunday. “As we move forward, we need to know that when you put a solar panel or a wind turbine up, it’s not the same as a thermal resource.”

The capacity shortfalls will be exacerbated by massive increases in demand as EVs with batteries as large as 118 KWh get plugged in every night. Battery-powered cars and trucks could use as much power in a single full charge as a typical U.S. home uses in about 5 days. Even if only 20% of a 100 KWh battery is used each day, that would almost double the electricity demand of the typical American home – and that’s just for a single-car household. As EVs typically get charged at night, they offset the typical low-usage time when solar plants rely on batteries to serve demand.

“The problem is that the EV fleet is not a system. It’s just a bunch of batteries on wheels that are often plugged in, often at predictable times and places, but never aggregated, organized, or managed”, Max Baumhefner, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

For decades renewables have relied on nuclear, coal, and natural gas to make up for sudden demand and periods of overcast and/or lack of wind. Government overregulation is forcing traditional plants offline faster than green generation and battery technology can replace them which makes it likely that shortages will occur this year.

We need to make sure that we have sufficient new resources in place and operational before we let some of these retirements go,” said Mark Rothleder, chief operating officer of the California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s power grid. “Otherwise, we are putting ourselves potentially at risk of having insufficient capacity.”

California officials warned that the state could have a shortfall of almost 5,000 megawatts this year which could affect millions of people.

“The grid could be lacking anything from 1,700 megawatts to 5,000 megawatts this year. That would be likely to impact between 1 million and 4 million people in the state,” officials said in an online briefing Friday.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is considering delaying the retirement of a nuclear power plant to avoid putting the state at further risk of outages.

The new warnings are at odds with predictions that EV experts offered just two years ago.

“If you look at peak generating capacity in the US and ignore any transmission and distribution bottlenecks (of which there are many), then even if every vehicle was electric, the generating capacity could handle it,” said Tom Gage, Head of Electric Drive Systems for Indi EV.

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