America’s energy crisis is getting worse by the day, and U.S. consumers are about to face a triple threat: simultaneous shortages of electricity, oil, and gas. The recent closure of key power plants is leaving the country without enough generation capacity ahead of the summer. At this point, rolling blackouts are already a certain fate. On top of that, national reserves of oil and gas have hit dangerously low levels, and this means Americans are not only going to pay a heavy price but also scramble to get adequate supplies of energy in the coming weeks.
On the very same day that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a report warning the U.S. electric grid doesn’t have enough generation capacity and that blackouts are expected to occur all across the country this summer, an important clean energy power plant was shut down in Michigan. The Palisades Power Plant, an 811-megawatt nuclear facility was deactivated due to a mechanical problem, leaving the Midwest without critical energy supplies and at risk of “energy emergencies during peak summer conditions,” according to NERC.
Palisades was located very close to the area served by the Mid-continent Independent System Operator (MISO), the region that NERC identified as being particularly short on energy supplies. NERC noted the MISO region has 3,200 megawatts less generation capacity this summer than it did last year. In contrast, consumer demand is expected to increase by a considerable margin over the next few weeks, which led NERC to warn that “extreme temperatures, higher generation outages, or low wind conditions” will mean that the Midwest is highly susceptible to “load-shedding to maintain system reliability” — the industry’s preferred term to describe rolling blackouts.
At the moment, around 25 percent of the country’s nuclear plants are at risk of shutting down due to economic reasons, according to the DOE. Palisades was just the first one to go on a long list of planned closures. Since 2013, 12 commercial reactors have been closed — including in New York, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Iowa — and none have opened. At least seven more have announced closure plans in the next three years, including Diablo Canyon, the last remaining nuclear power plant in California.
The closure of such plants is also going to result in higher electricity costs because generators are forced to burn more natural gas to produce more power to meet the demand, and right now gas prices are absolutely soaring. According to CNBC’s Kelly Evans the energy crisis will keep getting worse: “It’s hard to see how energy prices get back to “normal” anytime soon, and the risk of bigger price spikes and worse supply problems looms very large this summer,” Evans noted.
But it’s not only the coming power shortages that will impact consumers this summer. Fatih Birol the head of the International Energy Agency has warned that the energy crisis now underway will be far more “severe and longer-lasting than the oil price shocks of the 1970s,” since it’s applying pressure on three separate fronts. “Back then it was just about oil,” he said. “Now we have an oil crisis, a gas crisis and an electricity crisis simultaneously.”
In short, the closure of key power plants will increase carbon emissions, reduce energy affordability, and hurt the resilience and reliability of America’s electric grid. And the lack of enough fuel reserves may result in serious disruptions that may paralyze the U.S. economy. America is facing the worst energy crisis in the modern era, and the government is whistling past the graveyard. Wise leaders would be doing everything possible to expand energy capacity, ensure reserves, and strengthen infrastructure. Alas, we do not have wise leaders. What we will have instead is soaring energy bills, absurd prices at the pump, broken supply chains, and devastating shortages in every corner of the nation.