Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Trump orders 'immediate steps' to boost coal, nuclear plants

Report: Department of Energy recommends bail out of failing coal plants Trump orders Perry to take 'immediate steps' to stop coal plant closures | TheHill
Velma Reese | 04 June, 2018, 19:43

Electricity Consumers Resource Council President John Hughes, representing big industrial power users, said the Trump concept would "prop up uneconomic coal and nuclear plants" and "increase the price of electricity to businesses and consumers, resulting in a substantial loss of US manufacturing capacity jobs". Trump's plan will require grid operators to purchase power from coal and nuclear plants that otherwise might not be competitive with rivals running on cheap gas from shale fields.

"While we believe DOE has broad privileges to identify threats to national security, we are skeptical that (the order) entitles DOE to direct power market operators (.) to pay generators more based upon that threat", said Katie Bays, energy analyst at Height Capital Markets in Washington.

The National Security Council was set to meet Friday to discuss the Energy Department's latest idea for shoring up the facilities.

The plan cuts to the heart of a debate over the reliability and resiliency of a rapidly evolving US electricity grid.

The shale gas boom and inexorable rise of wind and solar power are indeed having a profound impact on the United States electricity system, with natural gas recently edging out coal as the largest source of USA power generation. As nuclear and coal plants are decommissioned, regulators have been grappling with how to ensure that the nation's power system can withstand extreme weather events and cyber-attacks.

Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) summit in April 2018. No one from the Trump administration has confirmed to NPR that the draft is an official document.

The proposal argues for action, stating that the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants must be managed, citing national security reasons. The memo outlines how the Department of Energy would use two seldom-used laws - the Defense Production Act and the Federal Power Act - to keep power plants on for two years while the agency studies the issue. That estimate was provided by Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation, according to the Times. "This needlessly raises costs for consumers and merely shifts the risk of premature retirement to newer, more efficient power plants that compete with coal and nuclear".

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The Defense Production Act gives the president powers to assure the nation can produce whatever resources are necessary in the time of national need.

"Unprecedented government intervention in the energy markets to support high-cost generation will hurt customers by taking more money out of their pockets rather than letting people keep more of what they earn", said Todd Snitchler of the American Petroleum Institute, the top lobbying group for the oil and gas industry. The owner of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has said its plant has been unprofitable for six years. NETL went on to conclude that, "In the case of PJM, it can also be shown that the demand could not have been met without coal".

The president heralded the coal industry during his campaign and his presidency, and he's frequently talked about trying to bring coal jobs back.

"President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources and looks forward to his recommendations", Sanders added.

By January, the commission had rejected Perry's request, the Times reported.

Analysts said the new plan would face numerous legal and political challenges before it could get implemented.

Representatives of FirstEnergy did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

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