Published: Mon, June 04, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Dumbest move yet- Saving coal plants in name of national security

Dumbest move yet- Saving coal plants in name of national security

Under the purported banner of national security, Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears again to have heeded the self-described "desperate" calls of coal baron Robert Murray in order to prop up dying coal and nuclear plants.

"Trump administration officials are making plans to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life, a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into USA energy markets".

The Trump administration's claims of energy security for keeping coal and nuclear plants online is not supported by the facts, as multiple power networks, including PJM, one of the biggest USA independent systems, point to a recent extremely cold "bomb cyclone" weather event in the United States northeast that showed the regional grid operating efficiently despite coal power plant closures, cited by Ars Technica.

The White House is considering a measure that would require electrical grid operators to purchase electricity from coal and nuclear plants that are at risk of going offline, according to a draft memo circulated before the Department of Energy, viewed by Bloomberg.

The memo added that "federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity".

The Energy Department would also establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve". This intervention would last for two years, allowing time for a federal study of vulnerabilities in the US energy delivery and grid system. The plan calls for Perry to use the Federal Power Act and the Defence Production Act to temporarily delay retirements of coal and nuclear plants.

The National Mining Association says in a statement that it has not received details of the plan from the Department of Energy.


The draft memo from DOE takes the stance that while renewable energy and natural gas have their share of benefits, increased reliance on them "comes at the expense of fuel security and resilience", which the document defines as the grid's ability to withstand and recover from major disruptions, be it adversarial attacks or natural disasters.

Essentially, that would force grid operators to buy coal or nuclear power even if other options like natural gas or renewable sources are cheaper.

If adopted, the move would mark an unprecedented intervention in power markets, and would serve the administration's goal of bolstering America's struggling coal and nuclear industries that have been shrinking amid competition from natural gas, solar and wind power. In a statement Friday, the grid operator argued that "any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers".

Soon after taking charge, new CIL chairperson Anil Kumar Jha said that the Power Ministry had set a daily supply level to ensure that every thermal power plant was carrying 22 days consumption of coal - the normative stock as laid down in standard operating procedures. Miller is a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt power company that relies on coal and nuclear energy to produce electricity. Nationwide, BNEF said, two dozen nuclear plants - representing almost 33 gigawatts - are either scheduled to close or probably won't make money through 2021.

The government last invoked the Defense Production Act to address the California energy crisis in early 2001, ordering natural gas sellers to prioritize contracts to sell supplies to utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. That attempt was rightfully denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which determined that market rates and processes are indeed sufficient to meet national energy demand.

"There is no need for any such drastic action", the company said. Low-priced natural gas has lowered the prices that coal and nuclear plants can charge for their electricity.

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