News Item Image


American families and businesses expect the lights to stay on at a cost they can afford. But that’s no longer a guarantee. Nine states saw rolling blackouts last December as the demand for electricity exceeded the available supply.

This is no longer a theoretical conversation. And unless policymakers change course, it’s going to get worse.

Warnings and challenges mount

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to regulate power plant emissions. This proposal will further strain America’s electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation. It’s just the latest instance of EPA failing to prioritize reliable electricity as a fundamental expectation of American consumers.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. But instead of putting down the shovel, EPA wants to bring in an excavator.

But don’t just take my word for it. Warnings about the threat of reliability challenges have snowballed in recent months. The 2023 North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) summer reliability assessment recently highlighted that more of the country is at risk of blackouts than last year. NERC says that the EPA proposal will accelerate the reliability challenges.

In May, several Federal Energy Regulatory Commission leaders warned the U.S. Senate about threats to reliable electricity. In March, Manu Asthana, who is the CEO of PJM Interconnection – a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states – said that the regional transmission organization needed to slow the pace of generation retirements to avoid reliability problems by the end of the decade.

Voicing reliability concerns

America has a reliability problem. With the help of co-op leaders across the nation, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has been a leading voice in sounding the alarm on reliability. Today’s energy decisions will determine if there are sufficient resources to keep the lights on tomorrow. Five issues are impacting the reliable delivery of electricity across the nation.

  1. Increasing demand for electricity as other sectors of the economy are electrified.
  2. Decreasing electricity supply due to the disorderly retirement and insufficient replacement of existing generation.
  3. Permitting delays that prevent new electric infrastructure from being built and connected to the grid.
  4. Supply chain challenges.
  5. Problems with natural gas availability.
Commitment to member-consumers

None of these challenges will be easy to address, but we can start by asking ourselves these questions:

  • Is this what America is supposed to be?
  • Should the threat of rolling blackouts be a permanent facet of U.S. energy policy?

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no for electric co-ops and the communities we serve. 

The long-term solution requires policymakers and regulators to recognize the need for time, technology development and new transmission infrastructure. These are the essential ingredients for an energy future that prioritizes reliable electricity for all consumers, including the 42 million Americans served by electric cooperatives.

Jim Matheson is the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

« Back