Grid regulators issue warnings about power reliability

The regional grid is facing a high to extreme risk of reliability issues in the next five years, due to fewer resources with reliability attributes.


Ben Fladhammer


February 21, 2024

Minnkota Power Cooperative is connected to a regional grid that is facing a high to extreme risk of reliability issues in the next five years, according to assessments from leading grid regulators.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) – the entity responsible for developing and enforcing mandatory reliability standards for utilities in the United States and Canada – released its Long-Term Reliability Assessment in December 2023. The report found that rising peak demand for electricity and the planned retirement of 83,000 megawatts (MW) of fossil fuel and nuclear generation over the next 10 years creates blackout risks for most of the United States. An additional 30,000 MW of fossil-fired generators have announced plans to retire over the decade but have not yet entered the retirement process with planning authorities, according to the report.

The highest risk level is in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) region, which covers 15 states from Minnkota’s service territory through the central U.S. to Louisiana. Although this region plans to add 12,000 MW of new resources in the next five years, the retirement of power plants is expected to leave the region with a shortfall of 4,700 MW by 2028.

The top recommendation from NERC in the report is for the addition of new resources with needed reliability attributes and make existing resources more dependable. Additionally, NERC said, “New wind and solar resources use inverters to convert their output power onto the grid, and the vast majority of resource inverters are susceptible to tripping or power disruption during normal grid fault conditions; this makes the future grid less reliable when more resources are inverter-based.”

Other important recommendations include the expansion of power transmission infrastructure, updates to wholesale energy market designs and strengthened relationships among reliability stakeholders and policymakers.

The Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO) came to a similar conclusion about the dire state of grid reliability when it released its 2024 Regional Risk Assessment in February. For the first time in its history, MRO identified an extreme risk – uncertain energy availability.

The report identified that “conventional, baseload generation that is available on demand is being retired and replaced with resources with limited energy availability due to uncertain fuel supplies that are increasingly weather dependent.” Additionally, the report found that “new generation resources are largely inverter- based and perform much differently than conventional resources, reducing essential reliability services to the grid and requiring new modeling assumptions.”

MRO is one of six regional entities operating underneath NERC to ensure the reliability of the bulk electric system through the enforcement of reliability standards.

Minnkota continues to advocate for the prioritization of grid reliability with policymakers, regulators and other key stakeholders. In 2024, it is anticipated the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will finalize new rules that would likely force a substantial number of additional coal and natural gas power plants offline during the next decade – a potentially catastrophic situation.

“Reliability needs to stay at the forefront of people’s minds as the policy framework is being defined,” said Mac McLennan, Minnkota president and CEO. “It’s unacceptable for the people of our region to wake up in the morning and not know if they’re going to have dependable electric service. Our country is accelerating down a path where this could become our reality. We need to approach this transformation of America’s electric grid with caution and common sense. There’s simply too much at stake.”


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