Legislative update: Rolling blackouts, energy issues move to the forefront

50th District State Representative

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, — For most Kentuckians, the reliability of our energy supply is not something we think about too often. We flip a switch or press a button and the lights come on the temperature changes in our homes and offices. That confidence is waning, however, as concerns grow regarding the reliability of our electric grid and regulatory policies impact supply. Utility costs have increased as well. For generations, Kentucky had the second or third lowest utility rates in the nation. Recently, rates have risen dramatically.


As we prepare to return to Frankfort for the second portion of the 2023 Regular Session, members of the House and Senate committees on Natural Resources and Energy met jointly last week to hear from executives of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Kentucky Utilities about rolling black-outs that were instituted here in December. The committee also heard from Texas Gas Transmission, LLC regarding natural gas as a fuel to generate electricity.

To be frank, this is probably one of the most under-reported issues facing our commonwealth. You will not find many stories about it in statewide media, so I really appreciate the opportunity to write about it here.

As we all remember, the commonwealth endured a massive drop in temperatures that accompanied a storm system that dropped snow and ice across the state. Within a five-hour period, the temperature dropped from 45 degrees to 5 degrees. Of course, that temperature triggered furnaces and heat pumps, causing them to work overtime to maintain comfortable levels. This cycling heat in turn created issues for utility providers as the spike overwhelmed the grid.

In any ordinary year, energy providers store 25% of their capacity for winter reserves. Meaning, that in times of extraordinary weather, the “grid” as we know it can operate without interruption. The extreme weather caused several infrastructure errors, which resulted in major issues. State providers began establishing contact with select local utilities, instructing them to institute an emergency procedure commonly known as rolling blackouts. This practice is used if the demand for electricity exceeds the power supply capability of the network. In this case, the rolling blackouts left significant parts of the state in the cold just days before Christmas.

While many have been sounding the warning for years, these events were a wake-up call that everyone heard. Energy independence has once again moved to the front as a major issue facing our state and country. I do not know about you, but when I think about our commonwealth, one of the very first things that come to mind is coal.

Coal has been an integral part of our state’s energy plan for generations. Until recently, coal supplied the majority of energy in Kentucky and the largest source of domestic electricity production in the state. However, federal energy policies – many stemming from international agreements that hold us to a higher standard than other nations – have dramatically decreased the mining of coal. This, in turn, has begun the process of closing not only coal mines but also coal fired power plants around the nation. Rather than seek proven ways to harness science and technology to reduce the impact of coal, we are turning our backs on a reliable fuel source.

While the efficacy of wind, solar, and natural gas has been proven to an extent, the reliability of our main energy source has yet to be matched. Coal plants can store a six-month supply of coal reserves to be used on demand, while gas, solar, and wind are only useable under the right circumstances.

Despite the reliability of coal-fueled plants, Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities, both subsidiaries of PPL Corporation, an energy company headquartered in Pennsylvania, recently decided to retire four coal-fired plants by 2028. According to the company, the plants will be replaced by a combination of two natural gas combined units, solar generation, battery storage, and a push to get customers to embrace energy efficiency offerings.

The update left committee members better informed about the changes, but equally troubled that without better energy policy – especially on the federal level – rolling black-outs will become a part of Kentuckians lives as they already are in other parts of our nation. This issue will continue to receive committee attention as we move forward.

I hope you will feel free to contact me with any questions or issues. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Please feel free to email me at Candy.Massaroni@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information about the legislature, you can visit the Legislative Research Commission website at legislature.ky.gov.


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