June 4 (Renewables Now) - The Trump administration has prepared a plan to require utilities to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants so as to extend their life, a move that has sparked a massive outcry from the energy industry.
A draft plan (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4491203-Grid-Memo.html) addressing the reliability and resiliency of the US power grid, marked "confidential", circulated before a National Security Council meeting on Friday. According to it, the recent and announced retirements of fuel-secure power generation capacity are undermining the security of the system. The proposed plan would require power grid operators to buy electricity from financially burdened coal and nuclear plants over the next two years to prevent the closure of additional capacities. “Federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity,” the plan says.
The White House’s press service said in a statement in response to media reports about the plan that "impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation's energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid.” According to the notice, President Donald Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take immediate steps to support coal and nuclear power.
Nuclear and coal-fired power plants have been struggling to compete against cheaper forms of electricity generation such as natural gas and renewable power. This latest attempt to bail out coal and nuclear power has been condemned by a diverse group of energy industry associations including representatives of the energy efficiency and storage, natural gas, oil, solar and wind industries, which say the planned action is “misguided” and would hurt consumers.
“The reported proposal would be a misapplication of emergency powers, there’s certainly no credible justification to force American taxpayers to bailout uneconomic power plants,” said Amy Farrell, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Meanwhile, PJM Interconnection, the US’ largest grid operator, said "there is no need for any such drastic action" and such federal intervention "would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers."
“Energy experts across a range of industries, within the federal government and in academia have agreed that this sort of effort will create a bloated power sector deploying outmoded technologies,” added Christopher Mansour, Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA’s) vice president for federal affairs.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), 15,864 MW of coal and 4,532 MW of nuclear power capacity would retire in the US by April 2021. Meanwhile, the expected coal and nuclear power capacity additions over the period stand at 1,687 MW and 6,363 MW, respectively.