May 22, 2024

Manchin: We Can’t be Open for Business if We Can’t Keep the Lights On

Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) held a hearing to examine the opportunities, risks and challenges associated with growth in demand for electric power (“load growth”) in the United States. During the hearing, Chairman Manchin discussed the main factors driving load growth, the challenges facing both existing and new generation on the grid and the need for Congress to pass comprehensive permitting reform.

“The North American Electric Reliability Corporation – or NERC – projects in its 2023 Long-Term Reliability Assessment that there will be 90 gigawatts of demand growth by 2030. That’s over 10% of peak U.S. electrical demand. But even that number is likely conservative. NERC relies on data submitted in the previous year from industry, and the forecasts just keep going up,” said Chairman Manchin during his opening remarks. “Let me be clear: this load growth is the opportunity of a generation and it’s ours to lose. The reason we have this growth is that industries which will define the 21st century—chips, AI, advanced manufacturing—are tripping over one another to build in America, they’re coming from all over the world. But there is no guarantee of success. 

“To put it plainly, we can’t be open for business if we can’t keep the lights on. If America can’t build the energy infrastructure needed to support these industries with reliable and affordable power, we will be forfeiting the opportunity to be at the forefront of the technologies of the future and cede control to China and other nations that we cannot necessarily trust. And right now, between the Administration’s policies and our inability to act in Congress, it seems like we may be in real danger of doing just that,” Chairman Manchin continued.

Chairman Manchin questioned witnesses about the recently released Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rules for backstop siting and regional transmission planning. The rules implement changes to FERC’s backstop siting authority and require regions such as PJM to plan for new transmission within their borders.

“Do any of you believe that the FERC rules took care of our permitting problems that we have getting things built, especially transmission or pipelines?” asked Chairman Manchin.

All four witnesses indicated that the FERC rules did not fix the problems with the U.S.’s permitting and planning processes. 

Chairman Manchin also asked witnesses about U.S. load growth compared with China and how reliable power will impact our ability to keep up with China on emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).

“Do you believe that China has a competitive edge with the amount of dispatchable power they have?” asked Chairman Manchin.

“They have a profound competitive edge in low-cost, high-reliability electric power, and a profound competitive edge on exporting the critical minerals materials we use to build our unreliable power,” said Mr. Mark P. Mills, Executive Director of the National Center for Energy Analytics.

“If we don’t have the capacity, with AI coming on so strong, if we’re not able to keep pace and be a leader in the world are we in jeopardy because of the lack of power we have?” questioned Chairman Manchin.

“I think you said it, you can’t run a business if you can’t keep the lights on. We need additional generation and so we encourage investigation in all sources of new generation like new hydro, new nuclear, small modular reactors, geothermal, battery technology for wind and solar to make them more reliable because our fabs run 14/7. So, encourage looking at all sources of generation and requiring new generation to be created before you retire existing generation,” replied Mr. Scott Gatzemeier, Corporate Vice President for Front End U.S. Expansion at Micron Technology.

The hearing featured witnesses from American Electric Power Company, Electricity Consumers Resources Council, Micron Technology and the National Center for Energy Analytics.  

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.