A Warning to Proceed with Caution
What’s the cost of inaction to protect the fuel diversity of our grid? New York offers a hint.
The Empire State may have only two coal-fired power plants remaining, but a new rule aimed at effectively eliminating coal power from the state’s grid by 2020 is already jolting markets. As Bloomberg reported, the rule hasn’t even been approved yet but electricity price futures are soaring.
The price of power in 2021 in New York City and other parts of the state has jumped more than 30 percent since the beginning of May and consumers are understandably concerned. Multiple Intervenors, a trade group representing roughly 60 big power users, has said there doesn’t appear to be any sign that the agency pushing the rule, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), evaluated the potential impact on electricity prices. Unbelievably, they’re right.
Bloomberg’s story revealed that “While regulators considered jobs and local taxes, DEC didn’t evaluate how power prices might be affected.” Isn’t that something.
This is just the latest example, in an ever-growing list, of the disconnect between regulators and the real-world consequences produced by their policies. While climate hawks are pushing a renewables-or-nothing future, the American public wants balance.
Strong Support for an All-of-the-Above Strategy
Recent Morning Consult polling found across the board support for an-all-of-the above energy strategy that maintains the nation’s diverse electricity mix (including coal) to preserve affordability and reliability. Voters also strongly support prioritizing investment in advanced coal plants that employ high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) technology.
What voters seem to recognize – and what too many politicians do not – is that action to reduce emissions does not need to sacrifice the strengths of our energy system or impose regressive costs on consumers.
There’s a healthy, reasoned shrewdness – something so logical it almost feels out of place in 2019 – that occupies the vast middle ground of the U.S. energy debate. Voters want to reduce emissions, but they are unwilling to trade the affordability and reliability of our power supply or jeopardize American competitiveness in the effort, and with today’s technologies they don’t have to.
Utility Executives Urge Action
Coincidence or not, as the polar vortex was walloping much of the nation with extreme cold, four utility executives wrote PJM Interconnection, the nation’s largest grid operator which provides power to 65 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia, calling for market reform to better value baseload units and the resiliency they provide the grid.
The executives from Public Service Enterprise Group, Duke Energy Corporation, Exelon Corporation and FirstEnergy Corporation specifically said that PJM’s incremental efforts to reform pricing in the energy market have fallen short of the “fundamental changes that are needed to support baseload electric generator units over the long-term.” They elaborated by writing, “PJM has not taken the proactive steps needed to value resiliency attributes, such as fuel security and fuel diversity, of its generating fleet.”
If these warnings sound familiar its because they are just the latest plea in a chorus of voices calling for action to address accelerating baseload retirements that are risking the affordability, reliability and resiliency of our supply of electricity. As Rod Kuckro from E&E News reported, the letter was an “unusual public rebuke.” Let’s hope it got through.
There is no mistaking the message nor wishing away the crisis. The loss of baseload, fuel-secure nuclear and coal power plants is a deeply worrying problem that can’t be fixed unless the electricity markets these units compete in are fixed as well. Decisive action is long overdue.
- On February 5, 2019