Shortly before the start of summer, the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a study warning that the majority of Americans faced a risk of “energy shortfalls” this summer during periods of extreme demand.
NERC, whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risk to the reliability and security of the electric grid, cited a combination of factors for its gloomy outlook. These included the continued closures of conventional power generation plants (those that are fossil fuel-driven), substantial peak demand and “an increasing threat to reliability from a widespread heat event.”
As Tennesseans know all too well by now, that “widespread heat event” came all too soon, at the end of June. During that time, we suffered through excessive heat, with temperatures soaring into the triple digits. If that wasn’t enough, a powerful wind storm also swept through, leaving tens of thousands of residents without power.
But concerns about the reliability of the electric grid in Tennessee are not just limited to the summer months.
All you have to do is to go back to last December. Just before Christmas, we experienced the coldest winter storm to hit the Tennessee Valley in nearly 30 years. With its biggest coal plant hampered by frozen lines and wind damage, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had to limit power delivery to its customers and impose rolling blackouts for the first time in its history. TVA, which is a federal utility, also scrambled for days to buy power on the grid– at premium prices.
Right now, there is a vital need for utilities all over the country to invest in infrastructure to draw in additional power from renewable energy projects. This is all being done in an effort to transition from fossil fuel power plants to cleaner, renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. But these big investments, often with price tags soaring into hundreds of millions of dollars, may be impacting utility bills over the coming years—including yours.
There is a good chance that gas and electric customers in Tennessee and the rest of the country may experience “sticker shock” –-especially in the next decade as more fleets transition to electric vehicles and more buildings electrify. This will cause an enormous strain on our aging and fragile electric grid.
One of the great benefits of being a propane customer is that you interact with a private business that does not operate as a monopoly.
Unlike the imposing gas and electric utilities, propane companies are not franchised to work exclusively within a service territory awarded to them. That means that propane customers remain free to shop around for a propane gas dealer that offers them the best price and service.
On the other hand, while it’s true that most consumers can shop around for the most competitive rates for their gas and electric supply, they’re locked into paying their utility’s various (and always confusing) delivery charges, which can take up a big chunk of a total monthly bill.
These fees not only compensate the utility for the cost of delivering electricity and natural gas to your home, but also for its operations and services, such as repairing or improving infrastructure, employee salaries, etc.
So, if anyone in government ever gets the “bright” idea to monopolize propane companies and force them to play under the same rules as utilities, this could adversely affect the quality of propane service that customers like you have come to rely on for so many years.
Or as a frustrated government official once said: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”