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May 27, 2022
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Energy storm in the Northern Hemisphere

This summer, a billion people in the world may be at risk of rolling blackouts. In less than a month, electric grids around the world will not be able to produce enough energy to meet the demand of the population. Grids are stretched due to a shortage of fossil fuels, heat waves, rising commodity prices, and “also a failed green transition, with grid operators decommissioning too many fossil fuel power plants.” Particularly threatened regions are Asia, Europe and the United States, according to Bloomberg. Heatwaves in Asia have already caused many hours of daily power outages in Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India. In Texas, six power plants failed earlier this month, and the real summer heat is yet to come. At least a dozen US states from California to the Great Lakes are at risk of blackouts in the near future. Electricity sources in China and Japan are overloaded, South Africa is bracing for record blackouts. Bloomberg NEF analyst Shantanu Jaiswal notes that the situation is unique, this has never happened in his memory. Henning Gloystein, an analyst at Eurasia Group, warns that if major power outages spread around the world in the summer, “it could trigger a humanitarian crisis in the form of food and energy shortages on a scale not seen in decades.” Alex Whitworth, an expert at Wood Mackenzie Ltd, notes that as grids transition to green energy, the absence of batteries when the sun is out or the wind is not blowing will create instability and increase the load on the grid at a time when fossil fuel capacity is rapidly declining. Bloomberg gave its forecast for the most congested networks, which may experience massive power outages in the coming summer. USA Rising prices and shortages of natural gas, the fuel for power plants, are pushing power generation to the limit in much of the US and parts of Canada. Consumers will be encouraged to reduce their electricity consumption. In California, America’s most populous state, gas supplies were cut even further by a pipeline rupture last year. In addition, drought severely limits the supply of hydropower. California’s independent system operator said the state will face power outages over the next few years amid extreme weather. In 11 of the 15 states whose networks are operated by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), consumers are also at risk of power outages. MISO, which serves about 42 million people, is forecasting insufficient power generation, especially in the Midwestern states. The network has never before issued such a warning before the start of summer demand. In Texas, despite the state’s struggle to build resilience in the wake of a February 2021 winter storm that left millions without power for days, the grid is “still at risk” of a power shortage. Texas grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) declined to give a reason for the recent shutdown of six power plants, saying consumers turn their air conditioners on too frequently. In the US, aging infrastructure and maintenance delays during the “pandemic” were exacerbated by severe weather, said Teri Vishwanath, lead energy and water economist at CoBank ACB. “The US is experiencing more outages worldwide than any other industrialized country,” she said. “About 70 percent of our power grid is nearing end-of-life.” Asia Here, South and Southeast Asia have been the epicenters of power outages in recent times, where “violent heatwaves forced the air conditioners to turn on at full capacity.” Most often, electricity was cut off in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, where a total of 300 million people live. In 16 of India’s 28 states, home to over 700 million people, rolling blackouts occur daily. The Indian government has recently instructed firms to increase their purchases of expensive foreign coal, as well as abolish environmental guidelines for mines, to try to boost coal supplies. However, the impending monsoon season will bring cooler temperatures and reduce demand for electricity, but it will also flood the mining regions, as always, and hamper coal supplies. In Vietnam, a state-owned utility company has been bracing for power shortages for more than a month as demand rises while domestic coal supplies have dwindled. In China, a shortage of coal led to widespread power cuts last year. The government “pressed the miners to increase production to a record level.” However, industry analysts have warned that the country’s industrialized south, which is far from inland mining centers and therefore more dependent on expensive foreign coal and gas, will see a tight electricity situation this summer. An earthquake in Japan in March caused the shutdown of several coal and gas stations, after which a cold wave caused a surge in demand for heaters. There will be problems with electricity supply in the coming summer months, and next winter, demand is likely to exceed supply again. Tokyo prudently launched an energy-saving campaign by asking residents to watch less TV. Europe In the Old World, the slightest mistake in the management of the energy system can lead to serious problems, Bloomberg analysts say. Additional pressure on prices and supplies comes from prolonged outages at Electricite de France SA’s nuclear reactors. France, Europe’s largest electricity producer, “cut its nuclear output for the third time this year, a critical sign of a worsening European energy crisis.” According to Fabian Ronningen, energy markets analyst at Rystad Energy, if Russia cuts off natural gas supplies to Europe, it will cause rolling blackouts in many EU countries. Spain, France and the UK and a number of other European countries are frantically importing massive amounts of LNG to cushion the coming energy shock. In Eastern Europe, where countries including Greece, Latvia and Hungary use gas for much of their energy and rely heavily on supplies from Russia, there is little chance of escaping blackouts, says Fabian Ronningen. “Europeans cannot even imagine such a scenario. [масштабных блэкаутов]. This has never happened in our lives. But if the networks are overloaded and fail this summer, it will only be an ominous omen of what will happen next winter. Without exception, industry analysts agree that the reason for the impending global blackout is “lack of investment in fossil fuels and reductions fossil fuel power plants as grids try to switch to cleaner and cleaner energy sources.” Schwabu & Co must be hiccuping. Top photo: Fin Review

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