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Op-Ed: Irresponsible ‘Green’ Energy Agenda Led to Christmas Nightmare for Over 1 Million Americans

“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” — Clement Clarke Moore, 1837 Know why no creature was stirring, not even a mouse? It was dark and cold in the house. Over 1.6 million people were without power on Christmas Eve 2022 in the U.S. Most of those affected were in the eastern half of the country, with half of all those located in North Carolina and Tennessee. Know why they were cold and in the dark? The electric grid operators that served their areas underestimated the drop in temperatures and the resulting increased demand for electricity. They depended too much on power generation from natural gas and alternative energy sources like wind, hydro and solar. Most had substantially reduced coal-fired electric generating capacity or eliminated it completely from the grid. Some of those with fossil fuel plants had made inadequate efforts to winterize instruments, components and systems that were exposed to the elements. So, when the temperatures dropped, the systems failed to operate properly, either reducing generating capacity or taking it offline altogether. It was a confluence of events that was to make the days leading up to Christmas not very merry for many people in the U.S. The problems for Duke Energy in the Carolinas began around midnight on Dec. 23. Demand jumped from 12 billion watt hours (GWh) to 22 GWh by the early morning hours of Dec. 24. By midday, Duke was running a deficit of supply and demand of around 2 GWh and could not purchase power from an adjacent exchange. As a result, Duke cut power for the first time in its history to over 500,000 residential customers on Christmas Eve to avoid a system-wide blackout as cold weather descended on the area. Temperatures rapidly plummeted into single digits, exceeding weather forecasts and electricity demand projections — and wreaking havoc on power generation within the system. Hydro-pumped storage failed to add capacity when needed. In fact, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, hydroelectric facilities were consuming 1.5 GWh as efforts were made to fill reservoirs to generate electricity later. Over the four-day period before and after Christmas, pumped storage hydro generation consumed more power than it produced. Cold weather-related issues involving instrumentation and equipment caused Duke’s generation to drop 25 percent at coal-fired plants. A combination of weather-related issues and low gas inventory caused production at natural gas-fired plants to drop 43 percent! By 6 p.m., when the sun had set and temperatures dropped, solar production was zero. Solar generation only occurs around eight to 10 hours per day, when the sun shines. Nuclear power plants were unaffected by the weather and continued to operate at full capacity. In the Tennessee Valley, grid operator TVA experienced a supply deficit of 6 GWh at 9 p.m. on Dec. 23. As a result, TVA cut off power to 300,000 residential customers for the first time in its 90-year history to “maintain system stability.” This is a code phrase used by utility companies that means “to avoid a system-wide blackout.” Although some TVA fossil fuel plants did experience weather-related problems, at midnight on Christmas Eve, when temperatures were at their lowest, gas, nuclear and coal-fired plants had increased production by 10 percent. However, hydro generation dropped 64 percent and solar went to zero. TVA said that demand exceeded the forecast by 35 percent. Nuclear power plants were unaffected by the weather and continued to operate at full capacity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which provided the above data, over 100 coal-fired generating plants have been closed or converted to burn natural gas since 2011. While the economics of operation can play a role in the decision to close or convert a coal-fired plant to burn natural gas, pressure from environmental groups and state governments to lower carbon emissions can be the deciding factor. In 2021, North Carolina passed legislation codifying a 70 percent emissions reduction target for 2030 and a net-zero carbon dioxide emissions target for 2050. In Duke Energy’s 2021 ESG publication, the CEO made the following statement: “Duke Energy is a mission-driven company, and our mission today is nothing short of leading the industry’s most ambitious clean energy transition.” Duke plans to “eliminate coal fired plants and replace them with inexpensive gas and an increased percentage of renewables.” It should be noted that the price of natural gas doubled between June 2020 and January 2023. What was unique about this series of events? First, they occurred when there was substantially reduced commercial and industrial load on the system. EIA states that the residential load in the U.S. only accounts for about 40 percent of the total demand. Therefore, if these events had occurred on a workday and not a holiday, demand would have been much greater. According to the EIA, average U.S. demand is around 500 GWh. From Dec. 23 to 25, U.S. demand averaged around 600 GWh. If that demand had occurred when commercial and industrial loads were on the system, demand could have soared to 800 GWh or higher, resulting in nationwide blackouts. The second most notable fact is that nuclear power generators ran at full capacity without interruption. Nuclear plants have a 92 percent capacity factor; that is, nuclear power plants are producing maximum power more than 92 percent of the time. That’s about two times more than natural gas and coal units, and almost three times more reliable than wind and solar plants. Generation from wind and hydro is unpredictable. Solar generation does not occur at night in the winter when demand peaks. Finally, there is a finite amount of gas storage at gas-fired power plants, as evidenced by the sharp reduction in generating capacity from gas-fired plants that Duke Energy experienced after two days of increased operation. What can one conclude from the power outages experienced by customers in the TVA and Duke Energy service areas? First, the rapid closure of coal-fired plants without an increase in reliable electricity production resulted in rolling blackouts. As demonstrated by the EIA capacity factor data, solar (24 percent), wind (34 percent) and hydro (37 percent) generators cannot be relied upon to provide electricity when needed. Second, neither utility had sufficient system production capacity and was relying on adjacent grid operators to make up any deficit. It just happened that adjacent utility operators were experiencing high demand as well and had no excess power to sell. The New York and New England grids were each running a 2 GWh deficit during this time. Canadian hydro bailed out the New England grid; the PJM interchange provided power to New York. Third, neither utility has permitted a new nuclear power plant in over three decades. Duke Energy has not built a new nuclear power plant in 35 years. TVA has three nuclear plants, the last of which was permitted in 1973; construction was stopped in 1985 when demand was projected to decrease. In 2007, construction was resumed and the last unit was completed in 2016. Current permitting and construction costs for a nuclear power plant in the U.S. are about four times the cost per GWh in the EU and Japan. In my book “Global Warming: The Great Deception – The Triumph of Dollars and Politics Over Science and Why You Should Care,” I cite published, peer-reviewed scientific research, employing the first principles of the relevant scientific fields of thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, atmospheric physics and spectroscopy to prove that CO2 (or burning coal) does not cause global warming. I use publicly available data from the world’s temperature databases to prove that there has been no significant global warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans or land mass as the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased, thereby falsifying the global warming hypothesis. I use publicly available information to demonstrate that the motivation of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, certain world politicians and global investment firms is to gain financially by promoting the fraudulent hypothesis. It is all about the money and political power. Science has been sacrificed on the altar of political opportunism for financial gain. There is no need to rush headlong into an irresponsible program to replace fossil fuel power plants with unreliable alternative energy generators like wind and solar. Let’s return to proven science and design a power grid that is reliable with sufficient capacity. Our national security and standard of living depend on it. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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