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Big Growth in Electric Heat Set Stage For Blackouts in US South


(Bloomberg) -- The states hit hardest by blackouts in last week’s winter storm have significantly increased reliance on heating homes with electricity over the last decade, putting more strain on the power grid when temperatures plummet.

The number of households using electric heat in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina increased by about 20% from 2009 to 2020, according to government data that survey a sample of households. The generating capacity of power plants in the region, meanwhile, has remained relativity flat and increasingly dependent on natural gas.

Those trends played out in dramatic fashion on Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 when temperatures in the region plunged to around 10F (-12C), millions of people cranked up their heat and flows of natural gas plummeted along the East Coast as equipment froze. Utilities were forced to institute rolling blackouts as power plants failed and demand overwhelmed the system.

The outages exposed a challenge grid operators likely will confront more often during cold blasts as utilities move to clean up their power supplies to combat climate change while an increasing number of homes and businesses turn to electricity instead of gas, oil or propane to supply heat.

“We have moved too swiftly over the past two decades to electrify residential heating,” said Pat Wood, chief executive officer of Hunt Energy Network and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “When that is combined with poorly insulated housing and low-efficiency appliances, we tax all of our resources across the board.”



Published on 1/11/2023 (70 days ago) Energy Crisis