Aligning Clean Energy Policy with Grid Reliability

Recent electric grid emergencies highlight the need for better communication, and coordination, between energy policymakers and grid operators.

In early November the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, convened its annual technical conference on the reliability of the electric grid.  In most years the conference attracts little attention beyond electricity industry insiders.  But recently, and this year in particular, grid reliability has become a focus of national concern following a narrowly avoided, potentially widespread grid outage in the Eastern U.S. last winter.  A recent report from the FERC and the nation’s grid reliability regulator NERC warns that similar outages are increasingly likely this coming winter.

At the root of reliability concerns is the energy transition itself, in which fossil fuel powerplants, and coal plants in particular, are rapidly retiring and not being quickly replaced with clean sources of power.  Also concerning has been the performance of natural gas-fired generators, a large number of which have failed to operate in severe weather conditions.  

While these resources can provide reliable electricity supply, they won’t do so by simple chance. Detailed and deliberate grid planning, and coordination between the policymakers who set clean energy goals and the grid operators who are responsible for reliability, is essential if future reliability is to be ensured.  

On the podcast Kelli Joseph, a senior fellow with the KIeinman Center, explores this disconnect between electricity policy and reliability. She also discusses the nation’s looming challenges to grid reliability and resilience, and how coordination between policymakers and the operators of the electric grid might be achieved.

Andy Stone: Welcome to the Energy Policy Now podcast from the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. I’m Andy Stone.

In early November, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC convened its annual technical conference on the reliability of the electric grid. In most years, the conference attracts little attention beyond electricity industry insiders, but in recent years, and this year in particular, grid reliability has become a focus of national concern following a narrowly avoided, potentially widespread grid outage in the Eastern U.S. last winter. A recent report from the FERC and the nation’s grid reliability regulator, NERC, warns that similar outages are increasingly likely this coming winter.

At the root of reliability concerns is the energy transition itself in which fossil fuel power plants, and coal plants in particular, are rapidly retiring and not being quickly replaced with clean sources of power. Also concerning has been the performance of natural gas fire generators, a large number of which have failed to perform in severe weather conditions. And while these resources can provide reliable electricity supply, they won’t do so by simple chance. Detailed and deliberate grid planning and coordination between the policy-makers who set clean energy goals and the grid operators who are responsible for reliability is essential if future reliability is to be ensured.

Today’s guest is an expert whose work focuses on the intersection of electricity policy and markets. Kelli Joseph is a senior fellow in electricity market design and clean energy transition with the World Resources Institute, and she is a Senior Fellow here at the Kleinman Center. In an upcoming paper, she’ll explore the disconnect between electricity policy and reliability. In our conversation today, she’ll walk us through the looming challenges to grid reliability and resilience, and she’ll explore how coordination between policy-makers and the operators of the grid might be achieved. Kelli, welcome to the podcast.

Kelli Joseph: Thank you, Andy.

Stone: Recently the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, or NERC, which is the body that sets the standards for electric grid reliability identified energy policy as one of five sources of risk to U.S. grid reliability. This comes as state and federal clean energy and climate policies have become more ambitious. Can you tell us why policy has been identified as a risk to reliability?

Joseph: Yes, thanks Andy. I’ll answer that in a couple of ways. The main challenge, I think, is first of all we have no national electricity policy in the United States. Moreover, we do not have entities that are in charge of setting policy targets in the sector for decarbonization, for electrification. Those are not the same entities that are responsible for managing the reliable operations of the grid, the bulk electric system. I think that’s a big source of the disconnect, number one. And then secondly, recognizing, as we’re moving through the changing resource mix, what needs to happen when it comes to managing the grid and the various reliability standards that we have in place — which I can talk about in more detail. But that’s essentially the challenge, that there is really no entity in charge that both sets policies and manages good reliability.

Stone: What are the specific policies that we’re talking about that are creating risk?

Joseph: In the NERC report, what they looked at is what they refer to as “cross-sector infrastructure.” So what’s happening is, as we’re setting electrification targets in heating and electrification targets in transportation, that all has an impact on the electric grid. When I’m talking about the electric grid, I should step back and say what we’re talking about here is what’s called the “bulk electric system.” That’s “the grid.” Those are the high voltage lines that are used in interstate transmission. There are a number of entities that are responsible for managing reliable grid operations in the United States, and I say “a number” because we don’t have a national grid, right? But we have a number of entities that are responsible for balancing supply and demand second-to-second in various portions of the United States. Some of these are big regional entities called “regional transmission organizations,” and then some of these are smaller, called “balancing authorities.” But what they are doing day to day is managing grid frequency, and that’s important because it’s a measure of how you’re balancing supply and demand. If you have too much generation and too little demand, you can have the frequency increased. Too much generation and not enough demand, that frequency can decrease. And as you start to have frequency changes, that can impact voltage stability, and that can lead to changes in power flows that could lead to cascading outages which could cause a blackout.

That’s what happened actually in Texas during Winter Storm Uri. They came very close to that kind of catastrophic event, where as the frequency was changing, what happens is generators are set to automatically disconnect if that frequency gets too far out of range. So they were seeing that in Texas. You had generators that, because of the winter conditions, they didn’t have fuel supply, or they weren’t properly winterized. They were experiencing outages, and as they were experiencing outages, the frequency was changing, and then others started to start to disconnect automatically. What the grid operators had to do in order to maintain that supply/demand balance and avoid a catastrophic blackout, they actually had to shed load in response to that.

So that’s a big part of what’s happening on the bulk electric system on the grid, the second-to-second balancing of supply and demand, and to do that, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which you mentioned, which was set up after the 2005 Northeast blackout — they set mandatory and enforceable reliability standards that all grid operators have to adhere to in real time operations. So those are things like managing two contingencies.

Rather than just the power that’s flowing across a transmission line, just managing to a single line, they’re actually managing to what’s called a “contingency,” as if a generator was already out, or as if a transmission line already went out, so that they can manage the instantaneous change in power flows, should there be unexpected outages.

As we go forward, making sure that grid operators have access to the kinds of resources that enable them to meet these mandatory and enforceable reliability standards becomes more challenging, but we have to make sure that that’s something that’s maintained throughout the transition.

Stone: There’s an important point here, and a question. So obviously frequency has always been an issue with the grid. They have to maintain it at 60 Hz so that everything operates correctly. But the implication here is something has changed in recent years that it is much more difficult to maintain the frequency at the proper number. What specifically is creating that difficulty?

Joseph: There are two things. The one that you mentioned earlier, in the discussions following some of the winter storms, the gas/electric interdependency on the electric system has been a challenge, but it’s a growing challenge. When we start to see really extreme cold temperatures in the winter, it becomes very challenging to ensure that gas fire generators have the kind of fuel that they need in order to be there when the grid operators call on them.

So the priority in the gas sector is heating. Generators, if they don’t have what’s called “firm transmission” to ship gas from where it’s produced to where they need it — if they don’t have firm transmission, they don’t have priority on the transmission’s interstate pipeline system. So there’s growing concern that as you get to have much more challenging winter conditions, very cold weather, heating is the priority, not generation — it becomes a concern that those resources are available. That’s what you saw in the last four or five winter storms where we experienced very challenging conditions on the grid, where there’s a concern that there is not enough gas to meet what’s necessary and what’s changing on the grid.

But the second piece of that is, as we start to have more renewables on the system, when grid operators are looking day-to-day, second-to-second, one of the things that’s changing is where the risk is coming from. So there’s growing uncertainty on the grid because, number one, we plan to certain kinds of temperatures. As you start to experience more extreme weather, there’s uncertainty in where the load might actually be, where it might materialize, and what we’re planning to do.

The second is in generation, the availability of generation. So as you start to have more renewables on the system, they have variable output. As you start to have the need to have balancing resources that can produce energy when renewables are not available, increasingly that’s battery storage or natural gas. Battery storage assets are limited by how much they are charged and how much they can discharge when they’re fully available, how many hours of megawatts they can actually produce. And then again, the concern that especially in the winter, that gas fire generation may not be available to provide that balancing energy.

But it’s not just a concern in the winter, because when we’re looking at having the resource mix changes, and you have more variable renewable generation on the system, you need to have resources that can very quickly come online and provide energy — quick-start, fast-ramping resources that can meet that need for balancing energy, to make sure that the grid frequency remains within a defined range.

Stone: And those are the gas plants that normally do that today, right?

Joseph: It’s gas and increasingly, batteries, and making sure that the gas production, the gas transportation, and the gas distribution systems are capable of producing gas very quickly and able to provide the fuel resource that gas fire generators need is a challenge year round, and that’s exacerbated in the winter.

Stone: On that point that you made just a moment ago, about the pipeline system and it being capable of delivering the gas that’s needed to gas generators — my understanding is that there are pipeline issues that need to be addressed, and per my understanding, the generators that use natural gas as their fuel do not or are not able to provide the types of incentives to the gas pipeline industry that it needs so that it can, in turn, make necessary investments to ensure reliable gas supply to generators. Can you dive into this issue and unpack it for us? What exactly is the issue here?

Joseph: Part of the challenge is in order to site a pipeline, you have to demonstrate that it’s in the public interest. So usually what that means is you demonstrate that you have enough entities that have signed up for what are called “firm transmission contracts.” So you have enough entities signed up to flow gas through that pipeline. Usually that has been enough to demonstrate that a pipeline is in the public interest.

What generators are supposed to be doing, or what we would like them to be doing is procuring the kinds of firm transportation contracts that are needed to demonstrate the need for a pipeline. They do that to some capacity, but generally not for the full amount that they need to power their plant. And that’s because for a long time, we’ve had most of electricity demand in the summer, and most of the heating demand, for which pipelines are generally built, is in the winter. And when it’s like that, you can have excess capacity on the pipeline and excess natural gas production.

So in the summer, generators are able to not have to buy complete firm transportation contracts to meet their full output, but they can buy gas bundles with some transportation capacity in a secondary market. And that works when it’s summer. When it gets into the winter, that becomes more challenging, and that’s when we start to see that the priority on the gas system is for heating, and if generators don’t have the right kind of contracts, they may not have access to gas when they need it.

But what we saw in the last storm last winter was that the issue is not even if you have firm transportation on the pipeline, because even entities that had that kind of transmission capacity weren’t having their gas contracts curtailed. And that is because there were production challenges at the wellhead. With issues with insufficient winterization and freezing temperatures, there was just not gas available, not even for heating customers. Going forward, this is a big challenge, because the expectation, where as before, most electric systems had been summer-peaking, as we move forward through the transition, the expectation is that a lot of these electric systems are going to start to become winter-peaking systems.

So when you already have these gas challenges, they’re going to be potentially be exacerbated if we don’t start thinking about, again, what is necessary throughout the transition — what we need today to provide the kinds of reliability services that are needed for grid operators to manage the bulk electric system reliably, and then what’s going to be needed throughout the transition and into the future, what could actually replace some of these potentially gas assets that are needed, as the system continues to be winter-peaking.

Stone: Kelli, we’re talking a lot about natural gas here. Just a question for you. How long are we actually going to need all of this gas?

Joseph: Good question. I think the piece we need to recognize is that in a grid made up of mostly renewable technologies, we definitely need resources that can provide balancing energy. And this is where the energy adequacy concerns come in with gas, making sure that they have the fuel they need at the time they need it.

The expectation is that we’ll start to see a lot more batteries, but unless and until we have batteries at scale, commercial, sufficient to fully replace or really replace the gas that’s currently providing those services. Another expectation is maybe we’ll have some load-shifting. We can move load around during the day, compatible with when we can store the energy, or when batteries may or may not be available.

But over the longer term, even with having sufficient renewables that potentially can provide some of these reliability services. I should also add that NERC is looking at the ancillary services and other types of grid reliability services that renewable resources can provide the timing that FERC has set for them to figure that out is in the early 2030s. So over time, we’ll start to see renewables provide some of these services. The expectation is we’ll have sufficient batteries that start to come on, and potentially even some load-shifting.

But to get to the point where we fully can replace gas, we really need some kind of new technology. So whether that’s hydrogen, whether that’s some kind of longer duration storage, perhaps even geothermal or other types of technologies that can come in and replace that, there’s still a need for a balancing resource because again, we need to make sure that we always have energy that is ready to go when we need it, making sure that the grid is reliable.

Over time, even as these technologies come on, and even as gas usage declines, the challenge is going to be that we still need the full production for that gas. We still need gas to be produced. We still need sufficient pipeline capacity to transport that gas, and delivery infrastructure to enable gas generators to get it. So even over time as it declines, we still need a robust system to make sure that it’s there for those smaller percentages of times that we do need it.

Stone: Let’s go back to our initial topic, which is the focus on the policy-makers. So policy, as NERC has identified, poses a risk to grid reliability. There was a telling comment made by FERC Chairman Willie Phillips, during FERC’s reliability conference earlier this month. In that session, Phillips said that there is “a need to demystify reliability” for state regulators. Does this imply that regulators fundamentally don’t understand or maybe don’t adequately consider the reliability issues that you’ve just been pointing out?

Joseph: I think it goes back to what I said from the beginning. First of all, we don’t have a national electricity policy. We have a lot of states that are setting their own targets, setting their own decarbonization goals. We do have United States-defined, nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement, but those are targets. Those aren’t necessarily codified and defined. We have the IRA, which is setting a number of incentives and possibly have the EPA putting proposed emissions standards in the electricity sector, in the power sector, but we don’t have a connection between all of those policy targets and the grid reliability entities. So there’s no communication between anyone setting policy targets and policy goals, and the reliability coordinators — whether it’s these regional transmission organizations, the RTOs, who are balancing authorities throughout the country. So there’s a mismatch between understanding what kinds of resources are coming online and what’s necessary to ensure that grid operators have access to the kinds of resources that enable them to meet these mandatory and enforceable reliability standards to keep the lights on.

Stone: This makes me think about another issue that’s coming up, and that’s at a fundamental level the framework for the way that we think about reliability in the context of the grid as changing. Now traditionally, grid operators looked at a metric which is called “the reserve margin” to determine if they had enough generating capacity to meet demand. Yet at the recent FERC Reliability Conference, James Robb, who is NERC’s president, stated: “The notion of reserve margin is an increasingly antiquated notion.” What is the reserve margin, and why does the reliability regulator think that it’s out of date?

Joseph: When we think about meeting load on the electric system and think about maintaining reliability, there are two aspects of that. The first is what’s called “resource adequacies.” And what’s happening is system operators, grid planners are running pretty sophisticated models to figure out what is the expected load, how much generation do we need to meet that load? And they run models that look at different weather conditions. They look at assumptions around what kinds of generators might be on outage and how often.

The assumption had been for a long time that as long as you have enough generation to meet this aggregated load under various conditions, plus a reserve margin, that that was enough to make sure that in real time system operations, grid operators would have access to the kinds of resources that they need, again to meet these mandatory and enforceable reliability standards. And I think when you had a grid that was made up of mostly fossil resources, that mostly worked because they’re basically similar enough, dispatchable enough that if something happens in real time system operations, you could be sure to dispatch another asset, as long as they had fuel available, to provide needed grid reliability services, whether that’s balancing, frequency, voltage, inertia, et cetera.

Going forward, as you start to bring on these different types of generation resources, when you have generation output that is more variable from renewables, generation output that is energy-limited from storage assets, or generation output that is fuel-limited by natural gas assets, there is uncertainty, not just in where the load is going to go and where the weather might take you, but there’s also uncertainty in generator output.

So when grid operators are looking to make sure that they can balance supply and demand every second-to-second, making sure that you have the right mix of resources available to them becomes more challenging. And just planning a reserve margin, and just making sure that you have what you need to meet need, plus a little bit more no longer is sufficient. You have to take into account that you have weather uncertainty in load in addition to uncertainty in generator output.

So we’re making some changes to how we do resource adequacy modeling under the assumption that that should be enough, again, to make sure that grid operators can meet operating reliability. But I’m not sure that even those changes are always going to be enough, that there’s still going to be a challenge in real time operations, making sure that there is coordinated planning between the gas and electric systems. We’ve coordinated policy between the resources that are coming on and the resources that are exiting in response to policy targets, and making sure that we still not only meet policy targets, but make sure that grid operators have access to resources that both meet balancing needs and enable them to meet operating reserve requirements in real time grid operations.

Stone: Something that goes along with this — There is an idea that maybe the way that reliability itself is defined in terms of reliability on the grid — it may be out-of-date, as well.

Joseph: Right, this is part of the resource adequacy modeling changes that we’re making. So we had been planning the system to meet what’s called a “one in ten loss of load expectation.” We don’t plan the system to have perfect reliability at all times. There’s a recognition that things might go wrong. We could plan a system that way, but it could also be very, very expensive. So we look at ways to meet what we expect to be the reliability standard, and that’s been the reliability standard for many, many, many decades.

We are starting to look at potentially changing that to move to different kinds of reliability or loss of load probability outages. We’re also looking at various ways to account differently for generation capacity, hoping that this is enough again to meet operating reliability needs. But some of what’s necessary in that operating reliability context are things like mandatory standards for operating reserves. These are very specific kinds of resources that are needed if something really goes wrong on the grid in response to a contingency event or otherwise, when grid operators have deployed operating reserves, it usually means you’re in an emergency condition, and the next available step to them is to shed load on the bulk system.

But before you get to that, you need to make sure that you have sufficient balancing resources. These are resources that can ramp very quickly, so they can provide that fast ramping, quick-start energy that you need to both balance renewable generation, but also just provide balancing throughout the day.

Stone: So to sum up here, we’ve got two problems, right? We’ve got the traditional problem of having enough capacity, the reserve margin. We also have this newer issue of, okay, even if we have theoretically enough capacity, we have to make sure that capacity can show up and operate when it is called upon. That’s the issue that becomes a little bit more challenging, where you’re dealing with intermittent renewables, and you’re dealing with gas units that may not be getting reliable gas supply, for whatever reason it may be.

So one of the things that stands out to me here is obviously the grid operators know about all of this, right? It’s no mystery to them. Why is it that the grid operators can’t, then, more actively inform the policy-makers more clearly of these challenges?

Joseph: I would say that they are trying to. From the beginning, I said we don’t have a national policy, and the entities that are responsible for managing grid reliability are not the entities that set policy targets and vice-versa. I would like there to be more coordination between those two entities, and I think there’s a way to do that, and we can talk about that. But I will say that all of the RTOs have put out lots of studies that they refer to in various ways called “grid in transition studies.”

So they’re actually looking at, as the resource mix changes, and as a number of states are setting very clear policy targets, what kind of resource mix do we need to reliably meet those targets? Then they’re demonstrating today, and out 20, 30 — sometimes longer — analyses that look at what it would actually take to maintain reliable grid operations under a mix of different types of resources.

They are putting those kinds of studies out, but what’s missing still is the link between those analyses, those studies, and the entities that are actually setting policies. So California actually just did a pretty big assessment called the “joint inquiry,” where they actually looked at a number of different what they call “resource adequacy pathways.” So it’s a number of different kinds of resources that could meet resource adequacy needs over a number of years, and the next step is going to be to do that same analysis but actually take it a step further and say, “What are the operating reliability requirements associated with these different resource adequacy pathways?” And in that case, the RTO is actually helping to inform and shape the policy decisions, and that’s something, I think, that could be very useful across the country.

You have the RTOs, who are these incredible system planners. They have great tools that can really help the states understand the reliability needs associated with their policy outcome. What kinds of resources are needed today to maintain operating reliability, and as we move forward, what kinds of resources are needed to maintain operating reliability in a mostly renewable system? And what would it actually take to get to the point where you have a fully decarbonized sector? What kinds of resources can help you do that? What kinds of resources can provide the operating reliability needs that will still be there as we move through the transition?

Stone: So Kelli, a few minutes ago in our conversation, you briefly touched on the types of technologies, the types of clean technologies that may be needed in the future, dispatchable clean technologies that really can replace some of the fossil fuel resources we’ve been relying on to balance the grid. Can you tell us a little bit more — what are the types of technologies that may be coming down the pike, the clean technologies that can fill this role?

Joseph: Yes, I think there are a few answers to that. It depends where your system is and what kinds of resources you have. So in grids that have a lot of renewable resources, and over time, if they bring on more renewable resources, they really need these quick-start, fast-ramping assets that can balance when the renewable is not there.

Over time, we really need longer duration storage, so we need potentially even seasonal duration, or many, many hours more than we have commercially available today. Things like geothermal, potentially some bioenergy. There are discussions about even blending some kind of renewable gas in the national gas system, carbon sequestration, any kind of carbon capture technology, perhaps even having that kind of technology available on remaining gas units is something that we need to be looking at, thinking about.

I think what would be useful, again pointing to some of these studies that the RTOs have done, is to actually have the state look at those studies, assess those studies, have the RTOs providing some kind of feedback on policy targets to say, “These are the kinds of resources that are needed to fully replace some of the fossil assets that are on the system or to replace existing gas.” If you’re on a system that doesn’t have a lot of renewables and maybe isn’t bringing on a lot of renewables, you really need to be looking at some of these carbon sequestration technologies, for example.

Stone: I understand that New York has really been forward-thinking in this area, looking at some of the specific technologies that might fill this role.

Joseph: Yes, New York is one of the only states that has actually opened up a proceeding to look at what are the types of dispatchable, zero-emission, emission-free resources that are needed to enable the full transition of the sector? New York ISO, a number of ISOs, like I said, have done these various grid and transition assessments to look at what happens as the resource mix changes over time, and all of them have identified the small group of unknown resources that are still needed, even when you get to a really high renewable system, mostly renewables, mostly storage, you still have a gap between those resources and what’s needed to enable the reliable transition, full transition of the sector.

So New York State has opened up a proceeding to actually look at what are those resources that are needed, and how might we think about encouraging those resources outside of the wholesale market prices alone?

Stone: So Kelli, you know there’s a major federal regulation on the way, and that’s the EPA’s proposed Greenhouse Gas Rules for Fossil Fuel Generators under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act. These rules are very much along the lines of major energy regulation and policy that we’ve been discussing today. There’s been a lot of discussion around the proposed rules. Some say that they would only put additional policy pressure on the electric grid and electric grid reliability. And there’s also the opposite argument, that such rules would be helpful for grid reliability, presumably because they would provide regulatory certainty that would help facilitate investment in clean resources. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the proposed rules and their potential impact.

Joseph: Yes, I can see both sides of that. This will be the first time that we’ve set some needed targets in the sector, but again, without coordination, I think even meeting what the EPA has proposed might be challenging. So the IRA certainly has a number of incentives for various types of technologies, various types of clean energy technologies. What the EPA has done is assume that we should be able to have the kinds of resources that can meet these targets because there are sufficient incentives in the IRA. Grid operators like ERCOT, SPP, MISO and PJM filed comments to say, “We have concerns about the timing of the assumptions in here.” The assumption is that some of these resources like carbon capture sequestration, hydrogen, et cetera will be available in order to meet the timeframe put out in these proposed rules. And they have concerns that it might be too aggressive.

Because it’s not just that you need the technology itself. There’s an entire infrastructure that comes with those technologies. So if you want to have hydrogen, and you want hydrogen to replace gas, for example, you need to be able to get that hydrogen to gas plants. There are unknown amounts of blending that can happen in the existing pipeline infrastructure. There might be other ways that we need to think about transporting that hydrogen, and the same is true for CCS. You need a pipeline system in order to inject that carbon and actually sequester it.

So there’s a whole ecosystem that’s needed for these technologies, and assuming that just having the incentive to create the technology, and just having some of the technology out there isn’t really enough. So there are concerns about the timeline that the EPA has proposed and the assumptions that they made about when and if these technologies would be available.

Stone: Kelli, a final question for you here. Are you optimistic that we can get the level of coordination that’s going to be needed between the policy-makers and the grid operators and planners to deliver reliable electricity as the energy transition progresses?

Joseph: I think we have to. One of the things that I would like people to understand is that the reliable transition of the electric grid is a Moon Shot mission. This is a very challenging, very complex effort, and getting it right in electricity really matters for any kind of decarbonization targets that we have, whether that’s for transportation, heating, et cetera. We need to have some mechanism in place where we have states that are setting policy targets, and the RTOs or balancing authorities that are responsible for maintaining grid reliability. There has to be a coordination mechanism somewhere in there.

We have attempted to rely on markets to do that in some places, not in all places. In places where we’ve tried to do that, we’ve never really been able to rely on prices alone to meet reliability targets or to make sure that we have sufficient operating reserves. We’ve always needed some kind of a fix. So we’ve had capacity markets in some places. We’ve had what’s called an “operating reserve demand curve” with an administrative adder in other places, but these fixes are there because we have to meet reliability targets, and we have to meet mandatory and enforceable reliability standards.

One of the things that I’d like to see us do moving forward is recognize that bulk electric system reliability is a public good, and that managing the reliable transition of the electric sector is a must. We have to get this right, and I think there are ways to do that. We have institutions that have incredible system planning capability, like the RTOs. And if we can use that system planning capability to help inform policy, I think that would be fantastic moving forward.

So we have a number of states, whether they are integrated resource planning in state-led resource settings, or whether these are deregulated states. But if they’re within an organized market, within an RTO, their individual decisions have a broader impact, and figuring out a way to have states that do set policy targets inform the RTOs about those policy targets, and have the RTOs help provide system planning analyses, both for resource adequacy and operating reliabilities — so the very kinds of resources that are needed to manage the integration of renewables as the resource mix changes, and the kinds of resources that are needed to meet these mandatory and enforceable reliability standards.

If we can have that kind of information flow to help policy-makers who are studying targets understand that not just bringing on renewables, but managing the gas infrastructure throughout the transition and bringing on the kinds of clean resources that can enable the full decarbonization of the sector, and having an integrated plan in some way moving forward, I think, is something that’s needed because again, the reliability of the bulk electric system is a public good, and decarbonizing the electric sector is a Moon Shot mission.

Stone: Kelli, thanks for talking.

Joseph: Yes, thank you.

Stone: Today’s guest has been Kelli Joseph, a Senior Fellow with the World Resources Institute and a Senior Fellow here at the Kleinman Center.


Kelli Joseph

Senior Fellow, Kleinman Center
Kelli Joseph is a Kleinman Center Senior Fellow. She works at the intersection of policy and markets, with a focus on transitioning the electricity sector to support a decarbonized, climate resilient economy.

Andy Stone

Energy Policy Now Host and Producer
Andy Stone is producer and host of Energy Policy Now, the Kleinman Center’s podcast series. He previously worked in business planning with PJM Interconnection and was a senior energy reporter at Forbes Magazine.