October 18, 2017
Lately it seems that news, too, is in the eye of the beholder. The calamity brought by recent hurricanes – a calamity some greeted as evidence of climate change – was seen by others as evidence of grid vulnerability. Nature has become partisan.
So it was last week. Reporters for the most part saw in the news of Luminant’s latest plant shutdowns proof of coal’s decline. So too did the Sierra Club, crowing over coal plant retirements like roosters claiming credit for the sunrise.
But looked at another way, the same news from Vistra Energy’s subsidiary could support Energy Secretary Perry’s concern for grid resilience. If 4100 Megawatts of baseload power can quite unexpectedly drop out of the Texas grid – enough to power 2 million homes under normal conditions — shouldn’t someone be minding the store? If so, none better than the federal government finally to ask serious questions about the implications and prompt a discussion. Let the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission propose the solution.
The risk is more than just to the grid. Few reports mentioned the estimated 850 jobs that are now at risk from the four recent announced plant closings and the mines that supply them. Perry’s proposal to FERC will do little for them, but it could well preserve many jobs like these throughout the East and Midwest that literally count on coal.