The State of The Grid: 2023
As a leader in transitioning to the new energy grid paradigm, we decided to start a quarterly series dedicated to the current state of the grid. In this series, we’ll explore what’s impacting the grid most harshly and how Heila Technologies continues innovating new solutions to improve grid resilience, deploy more renewables, and reduce emissions.
Simply put, how dire is our need to transition to a new energy grid paradigm?
Weather Patterns are Increasingly Destructive
It seems that every year brings with it a slew of more extreme weather events. This year, for example, Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on the country’s Southeastern coastline and was responsible for 1.6 million power outages.
Many people were aware of the storm as it was the main headline for news outlets for weeks. However, what might have slipped by many people was the fact that Ian was only one of 14 named storms. Although each storm didn’t bring the same level of devastation, the alarming number of hurricane landfalls demonstrates a growing frequency that many might overlook.
Winter storms have become a threat to the integrity of the electrical grid as well. A commonly cited example is the ice storm that gripped parts of Virginia in January, knocking out power for some 400,000 electric customers.
Meanwhile, the country’s western half continues its year-round struggle with wildfires, which pose enough danger in addition to causing power outages that hinder emergency response times, resident evacuations, and medical services.
Grid Maintenance is Costly, and Temporary
To put this into a larger perspective, this blend of natural disasters has come with a price tag of $765 billion in damages in the last five years alone. Additionally, these events have caused 4,500 deaths in the same period.
The electric grid can no longer sustain these natural occurrences, nor can consumers, taxpayers, or the energy ecosystem.
The North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) recently stated that grid operators in specific parts of the country (California and parts of the Midwest) face a “high risk” of resource adequacy shortfalls from 2023 to 2027. What’s worse: these shortfalls will likely occur during normal seasonal peak conditions.
In the same report, NERC noted that other parts of the country (Texas, New England, and much of the West and Southwest) face an “elevated risk” of shortfalls during extreme weather conditions.
This urgency demonstrates that even pumping millions of dollars into a failing grid only creates a temporary solution, which should trigger action from everyone at every level. Fortunately, this need is not going unnoticed. While progress toward grid resilience remains slower than many desire, innovative collective efforts continue accelerating the transition to a new energy grid paradigm.
The Current State of Microgrids
Discussing the grid’s current state in this series will likely demonstrate a growing decline in operational functionality and a corresponding rise in maintenance costs. Therefore, we should also address the state of one of the most promising solutions: Microgrids.
As has been made clear, the grid is only as resilient as its components. Microgrids offer a way to integrate efficient energy solutions, such as battery storage units with solar systems, into our energy framework.
Composed of distributed energy resources (DERs), microgrids enable better management of energy distribution, consumption, and overall costs. Simply put, they can make our energy sources more resilient. And while they can be connected to the larger grid (even supporting it when needed), they can also separate from it and operate individually in a process known as islanding.
As of 2021, the U.S. had 461 operational microgrids providing about 3.1 GW of reliable electricity, a relatively meager amount of electricity in the U.S. (less than 0.2 percent). However, industry analysts forecast this number to double within the next three years and continue growing. As this series continues, we look forward to watching these numbers tick up as grid resilience increases.
A More Resilient State of the Grid
Sometimes we need to address the problem from the ground up, which is precisely what Heila is doing. The Heila iQ and the Heila EDGE simplify microgrid deployment, mitigate project risks, and unlock energy savings.
Reach out to us today to learn more about how Heila strengthens grid resilience.