Washington Weekly: June 1, 2022

Washington Weekly: June 1, 2022

This Week’s Headlines

Bad Moon Rising: As interconnected global crises – the Russian invasion of Ukraine, increased energy consumption brought on by pandemic rebounds, and ongoing droughts – combine with extremely hot temperatures forecasted for this summer, trouble is brewing. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s latest reliability study indicates that energy grids across the globe are at risk of failing. With a shortfall between energy supply and demand, billions of people living in Asia, southern Africa, eastern Europe, and the American Midwest could be impacted by widespread rolling electricity blackouts in the near future. 

Counting Carbon: In a win for carbon emission regulation, the Supreme Court last week ruled that the Biden administration can continue to use the “social cost of carbon” metric to assign a cost to carbon emissions to quantify the economic harm of the climate crisis. The Biden administration can continue to use the metric while legal challenges play out as Republican-led states argue that the practice is “speculative” and restrictive. 

Island Time: The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Mackinac Policy Conference is being held on Mackinac Island this week, and the Michigan LCV State Government Affairs team will be in attendance. This year’s conference is expected to include a visit from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg with much of the focus being on the future of the electric vehicle industry in Michigan as our state tries to keep up with rapid industry expansion. Additionally, Enbridge Energy – the Canadian oil company that owns the dangerous Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac – sponsored an event for lawmakers on Tuesday in a blatant attempt to gain political favor in Michigan. Ahead of the event, the Oil and Water Don’t Mix coalition inspired more than 1,200 Michiganders to contact their lawmakers asking them to back out of this event

Lake Superior’s Superiority: Fun fact – the water contained in Lake Superior could cover ALL of North and South America in one foot of water! While we already think of our amazing Great Lakes as massive, this statistic really puts things in perspective. 

A Deeper Dive

After a nice Memorial Day weekend, it feels like warmer temperatures are here to stay for the summer. Great news for boats and BBQs, but it might spell trouble for our aging electrical grid.

The summer of 2021 showed Michigan how severe storms can bring down electrical lines, knock out pumping stations, and create power outages – again and again. Now, energy grid operators and other experts are warning that extreme weather and hotter temperatures exacerbated by climate change could very well create a shortfall between energy supply and demand and result in massive blackouts (especially in places like the Midwest).

Hot temperatures drive up the demand for electricity and, when combined with unpredictable, severe weather, creates a “perfect storm” of conditions that puts major stress on energy grids. To make matters worse, extended heat and super-drought conditions in places like the southwest U.S. are drying up water resources that are not only critical for the generation of hydropower (duh), but for nuclear and fossil fuel energy (for steam turbine and cooling purposes) as well. 

It’s not hard to imagine a worst case scenario where a combination of blackouts, storms, heat waves could be extremely costly – and deadly.

Behind the obvious dangers of losing power looms a different, hidden threat – a political backlash against renewables after grid failures. We’ve seen criticism of wind and solar energy after blackouts before (usually from political partisans), despite the fact that fossil fuel infrastructure (like natural gas) has played a major part in high profile grid failures in states like Texas. Furthermore, energy costs from fracked gas – and of course gasoline – are through the roof right now, jeopardizing energy security from an affordability standpoint.

For perspective, the U.S. experiences more outages than any other industrialized nation because 70% of our grid is nearing the end of its life. If nothing else, the possibility of a major shortfall between energy supply and demand reinforces the need to infuse our grid with distributed clean energy generation by investing in things like rooftop solar and community renewable projects. Another clear solution is investing heavily in things like demand response, battery storage, and transmission. 

If neighborhoods and communities can create “micro-grids” that can meet local energy needs, they can insulate themselves from widespread, prolonged grid failures from weather events and high demand across regional energy grids while helping to address climate change.

There is no doubt that the time is now to invest in grid modernization. 

To do this, we need utilities like DTE and Consumers to aggressively pursue energy efficiency. This means burying power lines and providing relief to customers instead of giving bonuses to executives, boosting their stock price, and blocking rooftop solar legislation. Additionally, major strides in battery storage technology have us on the verge of unlocking a fully decarbonized energy grid, and prioritizing proper siting of high voltage transmission lines can move electricity from areas with high renewable energy potential to the areas with the most demand.

Policymakers at all levels must not fall into the trap of those using these fair warnings of reliability challenges to attack renewable energy. 

The MI Healthy Climate Plan released by Governor Whitmer provides many recommendations to prepare for the future, and tools like the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s roadmap to implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding is a great resource for a wide variety of stakeholders.

Of course, we need new, bold investment in clean energy, jobs, and justice – which is why the U.S. Congress passing clean energy and environmental justice provisions in a budget reconciliation bill would be the number one game-changer to avoid worsening climate impacts and help our states and communities build the energy grid of the future. 

You can send a message to your representatives in Congress today to let them know you expect climate action this year.

The Michigan LCV Difference

Get the Lead Out Tour

This week, Michigan LCV will join the Office of Rep. Rashida Tlaib for a Congressional Tour of the Lead-in-Water Crisis in Michigan. 

The two-day tour will visit sites throughout the state of Michigan where lead pipes have continued to poison residents of primarily black and brown communities. On Thursday, the tour will visit the Greater Holy Temple in Flint and make the journey to Benton Harbor to hear from high school students about the impact of the lead crisis on their lives. On Friday the tour will visit sites in Pontiac, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Detroit and Dearborn Heights to hear from community members about the ongoing crisis.

The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act provided $15 billion for the nation to remove lead service lines but the estimated cost to remove all of the country’s lead service lines is a $45-60 billion price tag. The estimated cost in Detroit alone ranges between $450 and $650 million. The tour will continue to highlight the need to pass climate, jobs and justice legislation to finally remove all lead service lines.  

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

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