By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK, Dec 15 (Reuters) – The adoption of electric vehicles and rise of cryptocurrency mining pose emerging challenges to U.S. power reliability in upcoming years, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation said on Thursday.
More EVs, spurred by government policies such as the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, and energy-intensive mining of bitcoin will add demand on the nation’s fragile electrical grid while power plant closures outpace the replacement of new capacity and severe weather intensifies, NERC said in its long-term reliability assessment.
“These new electric uses can significantly alter the nature of how the system is going to be operated and what it needs to be able to provide,” Mark Olson, manager for reliability assessments at NERC, which is responsible for the reliability of U.S. power grids, said on a webcast.
Citing estimates from the California Energy Commission, NERC said electrical load from plug-in EVs by 2030 could lead to an increase of 5,500 megawatts of demand at midnight and 4,600 megawatts of demand at 10 a.m. on a typical weekday, a jump of 25% and 20%, respectively, compared with current levels.
The potential growth of cryptocurrency miners, which use supercomputers to power their operations, can also “have a significant effect on demand and resource projections,” NERC said. Earlier this month, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced a voluntary curtailment program for customers, including bitcoin mining facilities, to reduce power during peak demand periods.
Non-EV energy transition measures, which rely heavily on the electrification of businesses and residences, will also add grid pressures, NERC said. That increase comes as the shutdown of coal, nuclear and natural-gas power plants outpaces the replacement of new power generation capacity.
More than 88 gigawatts of fossil fuel and nuclear generating capacity is due to retire through 2027, with another 22 gigawatts possibly being slashed, NERC said.
Shifting power sources from traditional energy without the swift replacement of generation, including power from renewables like wind and solar, has left large swaths of the country vulnerable to outages, NERC said.
The Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s electricity reserves deficit has grown by a year since NERC’s last report, and the Midwest now faces a 1,300 megawatt capacity shortage for the summer, NERC said.
California and the Midwest are at high risk for electricity shortages from 2023 to 2027, NERC said, while the Southwest, Northwest, Texas and New England have enough energy and capacity for normal times but face shortfalls in severe conditions. (Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis)