On its website, the Southwest Power Pool says its mission is to help “keep the lights on … today and in the future.”
On Wednesday, the grid operator for all or part of nine states in the Great Plains said that will be more difficult with U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which could lead to transmission overloads, even rolling power outages.
Based on a recently completed reliability assessment, SPP officials urged EPA to extend the proposed carbon plan compliance deadline by five years and called for more detailed study of the plan’s effect on reliability.
“Extending the schedule for compliance will help states develop plans that are achievable and acceptable to EPA, reduce risks of reliability impacts and violations of reliability standards,” SPP’s CEO, Nicholas Brown, said in comments to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
“The real point is that we need time,” Lanny Nickell, SPP’s vice president of engineering, said in an interview. “We need time to build generation, and we need time to build transmission.”
Without that additional time, and assuming that EPA’s projections that 9 gigawatts of fossil generation will retire by 2020 with the grid operator’s footprint come to pass, utilities could face a difficult choice.
“What’s likely to happen if the 2020 time frame stays in place for the proposed interim goals, I think utilities will be forced to make a choice between either complying with the environmental regulations or complying with the reliability requirements,” Nickell said.
But John Moore, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, said the SPP analysis is “jumping the gun with premature warnings of dire consequences.”
Moore said there’s a glaring omission in the study — that new generation and energy efficiency will meet any potential void left by power plant retirements. He said SPP’s approach is akin to “a home remodeler who tears out the weight-bearing walls without building any new supports, and then wonders why the building buckles.”
It’s also not a given that all of the fossil plants that EPA projects will retire will indeed close.
“It’s absolutely fine to, from a reliability perspective, to look at what generation changes may occur,” Moore said. “But that’s something that’s an iterative process and involves talking with the generation owners themselves and understanding in this case how the states will usually comply. It’s been made very clear that this study doesn’t even begin to look at that.”
EPA’s Clean Power Plan, announced June 2, would slash carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by an average of 30 percent over the next decade and a half, with interim goals effective starting in 2020.
The plan will be implemented through state or regional plans that meet state-specific carbon-reduction targets and will offer states vast flexibility in terms of strategies to meet the emission reduction goals.
The rule is an especially tough sell for many utilities in SPP’s 370,000-square-mile footprint, where coal produced more than 60 percent of the electricity used last year, and which, on average, will be required to reduce CO2 emissions by 38.5 percent by 2030.
Among the dozen states suing in federal court to block the proposed carbon rule are Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, which are entirely or almost entirely within SPP’s footprint. Another, South Dakota, would become part of SPP with the planned addition of the Upper Great Plains Region of the Western Area Power Administration next year.
SPP said the proposed rule’s initial compliance date in 2020 is too aggressive for members to compensate for plant retirements with new generation and transmission projects, which can take 8½ years — a big part of why it is asking for a five-year extension.
But NRDC’s Moore said the request misses the fact that the interim goals that begin in 2020 are measured over a 10-year average. That opens the door for states with more modest CO2 reduction targets, in particular, to defer compliance until later in the decade.
In addition to asking EPA to delay the initial carbon plan compliance deadline, SPP called for technical conferences with EPA and the federal energy regulators focused on impacts to regional power markets and grid reliability, as well as a nationwide bulk power system study by the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
Nickell said the SPP study shouldn’t be taken to mean no new generation will be built. To the contrary, parts of the analysis were undertaken to demonstrate that new generation will be needed.
“We needed to show that, to demonstrate that,” he said.
Nor did the grid operator model a doomsday scenario for the purpose of criticizing the proposed rule, he said.
“We believe that we did a reasonably good job of representing or reflecting what could occur,” Nickell said. “It’s not as if we did something wild and crazy trying to show the worst case possible.”
See the article here.
- On October 11, 2014