Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned a study to assess the health of America’s power grid. His subsequent report noted a decline in America’s “base-load” power, and urged steps to improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.
The administration advocates an “all of the above” mix for the power sector. But Perry faces criticism because he has chosen to prioritize reliable generation over political expediency.
America’s electric grid depends on a bulwark of baseload power. For decades, this massive lift has been undertaken by coal and nuclear plants. However, since 2010, 66 gigawatts of coal capacity has disappeared, enough to power 40 million homes. By 2020, an estimated 80 gigawatts of coal capacity will have been shut down.
Rising gas production and crippling regulations have served to eliminate a substantial portion of America’s coal fleet. Bankruptcies and cost overruns have hampered replacements for an aging nuclear industry.
Perry has proposed that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allow some power plants to recover the cost of storing on-site fuel. Such fuel storage allows power stations to run non-stop during extreme weather. America’s utilities give priority to the lowest-cost energy option for transmission. But Perry urges a pricing mechanism that would value these plants for their ability to continually provide power during disruptive events like massive storms and frigid winters.
Coal and nuclear plants would benefit, since they maintain lengthy fuel supplies and can operate despite weather challenges. Natural gas plants can falter during interruptions in pipeline service. And much-touted solar panels and wind turbines are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts and only function when the sun shines and the wind blows.
Coal and nuclear plants still produce 50 percent of the nation’s electricity. It’s a significant but declining share of the energy needed to ensure reliable electricity. Thus, Perry is simply taking a very real-world approach.
Fortunately, other steps are underway to help secure America’s electricity supply. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced a repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would spare the premature retirement of more coal-fired plants
Polling shows that 70 percent of voters favor a diverse mix of fuel sources.
The administration can support a more reliable grid by encouraging upgrades to existing facilities. Perry is right to help ensure a continuation of the reliable and affordable power that undergirds America.
See the article here.
- On November 20, 2017