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Fossil fuels: Don't bury them yet

January 14. 2018 8:44PM

We will surely have more cold winds and heavy snow before winter’s end, but last week’s warm spell gave us a short respite from the cold, and a chance to thaw out after a brutal two-week cold snap.

The deep freeze strained New England’s energy infrastructure, as oil companies struggled to make deliveries and the electric grid relied on coal and oil to keep the power on.

Hydraulic fracking greatly reduced the price of natural gas, and state and federal subsidies added solar to the grid. But when temperatures dropped to zero, New England needed to fire up its aging coal and oil powered plants.

ISO-New England had not been buying much power from coal and oil-burning power plants, but those two sources supplied more than 40 percent of the region’s power during the peak of the cold snap. The small amount of renewable power used was dominated by burning wood and waste, not wind and solar.

Modern technology has yet to find anything as convenient and reliable as the slow process that turned dead dinosaurs into energy reserves. This experience reinforces the need for a diversified energy grid that can meet peak demand when the sun isn’t shining or the winds blowing.

We all benefit when clean, renewable power can compete in the market. Until we develop batteries that can store electricity from renewable sources cheaply and reliably, we should always make sure to have fossil fuels in reserve for when we need them most.

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