Monday, October 15, 2018

Energy grid operator and quashed Energy Dept. report agree: Don't force grids to buy electricity from coal plants

The CEO of "the largest power market in America cautioned the Trump administration on Thursday not to use emergency power to keep coal and nuclear plants alive, urging the president to leave analysis and solutions to the experts," Josh Siegel reports for the Washington Examiner. Interference from the Trump administration would be "very inefficient" and "would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers,"said Andrew Ott of PJM Interconnection.

PJM Interconnection serves utilities in these geographic areas.
Ott spoke at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in response to a question from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Ott referred to a study PJM is conducting, due Nov. 1, about the resilience of the power grid in the 13-state area it covers, which has 65 million people. The study shows that coal and nuclear closures scheduled for 2021 and 2022 can proceed without hurting the grid. 

"The Trump administration is considering requiring federally overseen grid operators such as PJM to buy electricity from select 'critical' coal and nuclear plants for two years, using emergency authority that is normally meant for exceptional crises such as natural disasters, war or a terrorist attack," Siegel reports.

A study commissioned by the Energy Department that doesn't support President Trump's plan is still being kept under wraps, six months after it was submitted, Ari Natter and Jennifer Dlouhy report for Bloomberg. The report's principal author, Michael Webber, tweeted on Friday that "the report hasn't seen the light of day."

The report, done by the University of Texas's Webber Energy Group, "debunks the administration's primary argument for taking extraordinary measures to keep coal plants operating," Natter and Dlouhy report. "Supporters argue that the unprecedented steps are needed to preserve the dependability of the power grid. They say gas-fired power plants rely on pipelines that are vulnerable to attack while coal and nuclear plants generally store fuel on site, making them more reliable."

The Webber analysis says on-site fuel is only one of at least a dozen factors to consider in judging power generators' resilience. The reliability of individual facilities is another. Every power type has pros and cons, the report found.

Though not all reports commissioned by the government are released to the public, the failure to release the Webber report is "eye-raising" because it contradicts the administration's pro-coal narrative, and because the administration released a report that supports its plan, Natter and Dlouhy report.

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