Science

White House Whims Are Not Grounds for Emergency Coal, Nuke Plant Bailouts

White House Whims Are Not Grounds for Emergency Coal, Nuke Plant Bailouts”

Trump administration officials who advocate taking action say they want to preserve nuclear and coal-fired plants that have fuel on site and provide reliable, always-on power capable of snapping back after intense storms and emergencies.

The Trump administration's claims of energy security for keeping coal and nuclear plants online is not supported by the facts, as multiple power networks, including PJM, one of the biggest U.S. independent systems, point to a recent extremely cold "bomb cyclone" weather event in the USA northeast that showed the regional grid operating efficiently despite coal power plant closures, cited by Ars Technica.

"Unfortunately, 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", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The administration has said it is concerned the retirement of old coal and nuclear plants could put US power supplies at risk because - unlike solar, wind, and natural gas power facilities - coal and nuclear generators can store fuel on site.

The Energy Department would also establish a "Strategic Electric Generation Reserve".

During that time, the DOE would conduct a study of vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid system. Under a 2010 agreement, Portland General Electric plans to shut Oregon's only coal-fired power plant in Boardman in 2020.

"Such powers have been invoked in very limited instances", according to Rabeha Kamaluddin, energy lawyer with Dorsey & Whitney, "and in those instances, "emergencies" have pertained to natural disasters, hurricanes, and major blackouts; events that hit at the core of grid reliability and power supply". This time, Perry is planning to resort to federal emergency measures typically employed during wartime or natural disasters, according to Bloomberg. According to Bloomberg, the memo added that these coal and nuclear plants are being replaced by natural gas and renewable power generation that is not secure or resilient.

The action by the Energy Department would represent an unprecedented intervention into USA energy markets.

"We strongly urge the administration to reject this ill-conceived draft plan and adopt a policy approach that promotes market forces and competition in our nation's power system", Todd Snitchler, director of market development at the American Petroleum Institute, said. But the agency said that most of the coal powered plants that closed were "relatively old and small". The owner of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has said its plant has been unprofitable for six years.

As Trump's fossil-fuel energy mouthpiece, Perry earlier commissioned a study to identify regulatory causes for coal-plant closures, but no regulations were found; instead, cheap natural gas was observed to be responsible for widespread industry decline. "There is no need for any such drastic action", said a PJM spokesperson about the new idea. A coalition of natural gas and renewable power advocates told Perry that "power plant retirements are a normal, healthy feature of electricity markets", and therefore there is no emergency that would justify Energy Department action. And it is the biggest dumb move by this administration I have seen, at least since yesterday - when Trump effectively made all our allies angry with his ridiculous trade tariffs.

"If DOE proceeds as the memo suggests, a selection of coal and nuclear plants, ostensibly those at risk of retirement, would receive subsidized payments. under a stitched-together "Frankenstein's monster" of federal authorities", said a commentary by Height Analytics, a consulting firm.



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