Power companies in the United States are facing supply shortages, which may limit their ability to keep the lights on as the country enters the height of summer and hurricane season.
Storms, wildfires, and droughts are becoming increasingly common in the United States. Consumer power consumption is expected to reach all-time highs this summer, putting strain on electric grids at a time when federal agencies are warning of potential reliability issues.
Utilities are warning of equipment supply constraints, which could stymie efforts to restore power during outages. They are also having a more difficult time rebuilding natural gas stockpiles for next winter, as power generators burn record amounts of gas as a result of the recent shutdown of dozens of coal plants, and extreme drought cuts hydropower supplies in many Western states.
‘Increasingly frequent cold snaps, heat waves, drought, and major storms continue to test our nation’s electric infrastructure’s ability to deliver reliable, affordable energy to consumers,’ said Richard Glick, chairman of the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), earlier this month.
Federal agencies in charge of power reliability, such as FERC, have warned that grids in the western half of the country may experience reliability issues this summer as people turn on air conditioners to escape the heat.
The heat has already caused problems for some utilities. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’ grid operator, was forced to urge customers to conserve energy after several plants unexpectedly shut down during an early heat wave in mid-May.