The Future of Power Shortages in the West

The Future of Power Shortages in the West

Category: Kohler Power

Date: Thursday, September 8th, 2022

In April of this year, published an online article that garnered national attention. The article focused on the current historic drought throughout the Western states and especially its potential to create power blackouts across California this summer. This Bloomberg article was just one of many recent national news items addressing the West’s continuing challenges for power generation which relies heavily on hydropower to keep the lights on while our Western rivers are slowing their flow and wildfires are threatening our communities. Since that time multiple sources have reported additional information on the reduction of water from the Colorado river resulting in record lows at Lake Mead.

This drought comes at a time when our desire to reduce fossil fuels and our growing energy demand is creating a power pinch point, an energy crisis. The less we rely on fossil fuels, the more we must rely on electricity. However, a huge increase in demand for electricity further complicates the shortening supply. At the same time, our electrical dependence is becoming more critical just when our grid reliability is being called into question.

There Are Ways to Protect Your Power

Despite these energy challenges, tools are available for commercial and business customers to keep their assets safe and their lights on. Power Systems West (PSW) has made reliable back-up power our main mission since 1955. When the grid goes down, Power Systems West is there.

As a backup power and service provider, PSW takes power grid reliability seriously. Our company is currently experiencing an increase in around-the-clock emergency generator services for all seasons of the year. PSW supports Kohler Power generators, transfer switches and accessory back-up power products across the expansive territory in the west (territory includes Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington.)

PSW application engineers and service technicians are servicing businesses that are now requiring backup power for their fleets and auxiliary equipment in addition to their traditional facility operations. Our team supports thousands of generators under maintenance contracts where we sell reliability and emergency responsiveness. Our service has never been in a higher demand and we expect this trend to continue. We have also been working on comprehensive future solutions to incorporate new technologies into the equation. We believe the future is solutions that incorporate solar, energy storage and back-up power giving companies redundancy in their energy plan and allowing for electrical efficiencies to be gained. To make sure we have the capability to maintain our standards for service and reliability today and into the future, our team has been researching the factors we can monitor and forecast over the coming years. Our goal is to plan ahead and for the future of this energy crisis and make the necessary investments now that allow us to add value when our customers need us most. We hope to share our findings with the market, and to help our communities better prepare for what is to come.


What We Have Found

The extensive drought, loss of snowpack, and increased demand by growing communities across the West is reducing water levels in our reservoirs and decreasing our capability to use water for hydropower generation. Decreases in the use of fossil fuels for vehicles and equipment is requiring greater reliance on solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Increased demand for data processing and wireless communications across all industries means even greater reliance on electrical grid reliability. All of this requires electricity and grid reliability. As climate change persists the future is expected to have more extreme weather, which means increased energy for HVAC impacting peak energy use in these times.

This trend of extreme temperatures and persistent drought in the West also means longer, more destructive fire seasons over greater expanses of land. Power utilities have shut portions of their electrical grids down for strategic fire prevention, forcing power blackouts across significantly populated areas.

When these events occur, reliable communications are a life-saving necessity. Power Systems West provides support to emergency first responders by servicing backup power sources to remote cellular telecommunications towers and other critical municipality infrastructures.

PSW research is forecasting that these factors straining the electrical grid are only going to get worse throughout the West over the coming years which is going to put additional strain on the reliability of the grid. It tells us that back-up power, renewable energy and energy storage are key to the future. Several factors are making this crisis most significant right now in California, one of which is the population being near 40 million. Secondly, the main water supply is drying up and the drought continues to persist. As the crisis worsens, California is going to turn to nearby Western states where power is available from the grid and water resources are available.

As a Kohler Power Generator Distributor and Service Provider, Power Systems West is required to understand all these factors and adapt to them so we can continue to provide our customers in the West with backup power solutions that meet their needs regardless of environmental challenges.


The Good News

There is still time for communities to prepare for these challenges. While the drought is real and increases risk for another serious fire season, Washington and Oregon still have strong hydropower which could offset the chances of rolling blackouts. At least in the immediate future the data supports this theory. In May of this year, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a report titled the 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment. Page 33 of this document features an assessment of WECC-NWPP-US which includes Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and parts of California, Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota.


Highlights of the NERC 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment for WECC-NWPP-US.
  • Potential drought conditions remain a concern.
  • Reserve margins are up across the board and adequate.
  • Based on a WECC probabilistic assessment, the WECC-NWPP-US assessment area had negligible load probability (LOLH) and energy utilization (EUE) data.
  • On the peak risk hour at 7:00 p.m., local time and under a summer peak defined as a 1-in-10 probability, including firm transfers, the WECC-NWPP-US area is not expected to have sufficient resource availability to meet demand and cover reserves under any of the scenarios on their own, including typical forced outages. WECC-NWPP-US will need to locate additional external assistance for power importing.
Risk Scenario Summary

Expected resources meet operating reserve requirements under normal peak-demand scenarios. Above-normal summer peak load and outage conditions could result in the need to employ operating power mitigations (demand response and transfers) and energy and environmental analyses (EEA). Load shedding may be needed under extreme peak demand and outage scenarios will need to be analyzed.

For additional information on this topic or to learn more about how to protect your critical infrastructure reach out to us.



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