This week, Texas’ independent grid operator saw about half of its generation go offline due to extreme weather. The vast majority of that 30 gigawatts of generation were thermal plants that could not operate in extreme cold. Here’s how Illinois can prevent the nightmare that has gripped Texas from happening here.
1) Preserve State Nuclear Fleet
Illinois’ nuclear fleet, the largest of any state in the union, can operate in extreme cold and extreme heat, unlike many other thermal generators. All six plants can safely operate in extreme cold and warm temperatures. But this reliable, resilient fleet—which produces 60 percent of the state’s electricity (all carbon free), provides a reliable base of power, supports more than 28,000 workers and sends $125 million in tax revenue to Illinois—needs to be fairly supported.
Future energy legislation should include the Braidwood, Byron, Dresden and LaSalle nuclear plants in the zero emission standard program like the state’s other nuclear plants. It should also adopt the Fixed Resource Requirement process that allows the nuclear fleet to remain competitive in future capacity auctions.
2) Invest in building resilient, modern grid
As more wind and solar projects come online, grid infrastructure must be able to send electrons in both directions and transmit them often over long distances to where demand exists. Energy legislation should create a transparent process that provides the needed revenues to build out a smart, modern grid and employ thousands of union workers. Having a grid with more redundancy and resilience will keep power on in extreme weather events.
3) Increase clean energy generation
While a small number of Texas’ wind turbines froze, Midwest wind turbines often have heaters or other technologies already installed to allow them to operate in cold temperatures. Constructing more renewables for the grid will result in more clean generation to replace thermal plants that utilities are shuttering across the state.