Future of the Electric Industry

Written by Todd Ware, President & Chief Executive Officer

As we continue to navigate through 2024, I have concerns about the future of our country's electric industry. The Energy Cooperative generates electricity through our generation cooperative, Buckeye Power, which consists of twenty-four electric cooperatives in Ohio. As a member of the Buckeye Power board, we have worked diligently to prepare for future cooperative members' needs while providing reliable and clean power. More than fifteen years ago, a billion dollars was spent on our Cardinal Power Plant to make it one of the cleanest coal generators in the world.

The United States' electric grid is divided into regional territories. As the map below shows, Buckeye Power is part of the PJM region. This regional transmission organization (RTO) coordinates, controls and monitors a multistate electric grid and is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Late in 2023, FERC released its winter reliability report. For winter 2023-24, the report stated that the PJM territory was at risk of insufficient power generation to meet electricity demand during an extreme weather event. Currently, this winter will finish as one of the warmest on record. However, this has nothing to do with the real issue: our PJM territory is subject to generation shortages during extreme weather.

Buckeye Power has planned and prepared enough generation for our cooperative members in Ohio, but because of the government required RTO, we cannot control other generating facilities in our PJM market.

Ohio alone has gone from twenty-one coal generation plants to four. These facilities provide steady, reliable baseload electricity, regardless of whether the sun shines or the wind blows. With the closing of such baseload electric generation facilities across the nation, we now have greater concern for the reliability of our electric supply.

Another concern is the wave of encouragement in electric car usage, which is increasing demand and complicating the issue. The electric industry is complex but also very straightforward. If we continue to produce less base-generation electricity, relying instead on intermittent resources, and grow in our need for power, we will easily exceed our ability to supply what is needed. Demand shortages will be noticed during extreme weather conditions when demand increases.

Some areas of the nation have already seen this play out. Around Christmas in 2022, parts of the southeast RTO had rolling blackouts. The extreme cold of winter storm Elliott forced the region to shut off power to areas in its service territory. The Energy Cooperative (TEC) has been collaborating with legislators over the past few years to express our concerns about the direction of this dangerous situation. Locally, TEC is creating a plan to reduce consumption if the PJM market reaches a dangerously low supply level.

As a member, your opinions must be heard. One great way to do that is through VCP, Voices for Cooperative Power. You can share your opinions and concerns online at voicesforcooperativepower.com, or you can reach out to your local legislators directly. Your input is necessary and can make a significant difference in shaping the future of our electric industry.

Times Magazine, Issue 2, 2024