December 2, 2013, 7:57 p.m.
Its job is to figure out how to cope with a risk from something the public generally thinks of as benign — renewable energy.
Green energy is the least predictable kind. Nobody can say for certain when the wind will blow or the sun will shine. A field of solar panels might be cranking out huge amounts of energy one minute and a tiny amount the next if a thick cloud arrives. In many cases, renewable resources exist where transmission lines don't.
"The grid was not built for renewables," said Trieu Mai, senior analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
A momentary overload can crash the system.
Some utility officials warn, however, that the only guarantee is that ratepayers will be spending a lot.
Already, power grid operators in some states have had to dump energy produced by wind turbines on blustery days because regional power systems had no room for it.
"We are getting to the point where we will have to pay people not to produce power..."
A bigger fear is that the grid is becoming more vulnerable to collapse, leaving the public exposed to the kind of blackouts that hit San Diego, parts of Arizona and a chunk of Baja California on a blistering hot September day in 2011.
Federal regulators see an expanded role for themselves as the best hope...
But state regulators are reluctant to cede authority. That's particularly true in California, where bitterness over the energy crisis of more than a decade ago remains intense and makes officials reluctant to cede an inch of jurisdiction to Washington.
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