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Trump administration's plan to boost coal, nuclear power rejected
11 January 2018, 09:17 | Darnell Patrick
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On Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied a rule proposed by Energy Secretary Rick Perryearlier this year (PDF) to compensate coal and nuclear generation facilities over and above the compensation they now receive if they kept 90 days' worth of fuel on site.
Definitions of resiliency do exist for FERC to draw upon, but it will be unlikely to find them in the DOE proposal, which did not identify a single one relevant to electric generation.
"The goals of this proceeding are to develop a common understanding among the Commission, industry and others of what resilience of the bulk power system means and requires; to understand how each regional transmission organization and independent system operator assesses resilience in its geographic footprint; and to use this information to evaluate whether additional Commission action regarding resilience is appropriate".
Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in an interview that the department was encouraged by FERC's decision, noting that the panel has pledged to conduct its own review of grid resiliency. "The FERC correctly found that the Department of Energy's proposal violated the basic requirements of the Federal Power Act". But in the past decade, USA domestic oil production has soared from 5 million to 9.4 million barrels per day while the price dropped from $130 to below $60 per barrel. The irony is that FERC is an independent agency comprised exclusively of political appointees - not longtime, career government workers - and four of FERC's five commissioners were appointed by Trump previous year and confirmed by the Senate.
The Commission said that while it had not used the term "resilience", it had pursued policies that would "ensure the uninterrupted supply of electricity in the face of fuel disruptions or extreme weather threats".
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Pressured by competition from gas-fired generators and the Obama administration drive to reduce power plant emissions, aging coal plants accounted for 52% of the generation power that was retired between 2010 and 2015 according to the government. Instead of plunging the eastern seaboard into cold darkness, the storm caused relatively few outages, including one that shut down a nuclear power plant in MA.
"I fear that we will now immediately observe the announcement of further decommissioning of nuclear and coal-fired electricity generation that will further exacerbate this critical situation", Mr. Murray added.
Murray dismissed the research, claiming that Rhodium Group is "certainly biased" and "shills for the renewable energy industry". The record, however, does not demonstrate that such an outcome would be just and reasonable. She said that Perry' proposal "sought to freeze yesterday's resources in place indefinitely".
The commission said it would begin a new process to study whether fewer nuclear and coal plants pose risks to "grid resilience" which it defined as "the ability to withstand and reduce the magnitude and/or duration of disruptive events".
Three of those appointees are Republicans, including the commission's new Chairman, Kevin McIntyre, who worked for nearly 30 years as an attorney for the energy industry. LaFleur is the only member appointed before Trump took office.
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