You don’t have to look far to see the effect of climate change with temperatures rising, increased fire threats in areas and droughts in other areas.
It’s right that government officials and businesses should be looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to try to do what can be done to reduce climate change.
With that said, we also need to take time to look at the unintended consequences that can occur if steps are taken too quickly.
The Midwest grid operator — the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) — warned this year that energy generation capacity in the region including Minnesota and Wisconsin could be about 1,230 megawatts short of possible peak demand. With above-average temperatures forecast, MISO said it may need to rely on imports or emergency measures to maintain the grid. The operator also warned that Wisconsin was at a high risk of possible blackouts.
Since that report came out, We Energies has said that people don’t have to worry about rolling blackouts.
Before blackouts would be scheduled, We Energies would first call for the public to decrease power use — asking customers to turn off lights as much as possible, turn off the air conditioning, that kind of thing and that’s never happened before in We Energies’ history.
It’s important to point out that if Wisconsin’s energy producers fall short of demand, power could be imported from neighboring power grids. Wind turbine power generated in Iowa could fill Wisconsin’s gaps, and vice versa. That’s thanks to the system in place through MISO.
Even though we are being told not to worry this summer about blackouts, Wisconsin Public Service Commission member Ellen Nowak is right when she said that the report should serve as a “wakeup call.”
She said, “I’m not hitting the panic button, but it is a wake-up call. I think it’s a good reality check about how the system works.” She has called for continuing to delay the retirement of fossil fuel generators.
The reason the issue of possible blackouts was brought up is the result of the closure of some power plants in the Midwest, decreasing the amount of extra power beyond anticipated peak loads that the whole grid can produce.
With that said, We Energies and Alliant Energy (which powers much of central and southwestern Wisconsin) recently extended the lives of several in-state coal plants by several years. That will help stabilize power in the state.
Two of the units in We Energies’ Oak Creek plant, located just north of Caledonia, were due to shut down in early 2023 and the other two were to close in early 2024. Now, they are due to retire in May 2024 and November 2025, respectively.
Looking to the future, a lot of due diligence should be done before those plants permanently close. There is value in having multiple diverse energy sources in the Midwest. The last thing we want to do is put lives at risk if there is not enough energy to support demand.
– Racine Journal Times