Perry orders grid plan to boost coal, nuclear
Energy Secretary Rick Perry is taking steps to make sure that struggling coal and nuclear power plants don’t close prematurely, in the Trump administration’s latest effort to bolster energy jobs.
Perry issued a memo late Friday directing his chief of staff to begin a 60-day review of how regulations, tax policy and the federally overseen electric markets, which incentivize power plant development, may be forcing coal and other power plants to close faster than expected.
“We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric, all of which provide affordable baseload power and contribute to a stable, reliable and resilient grid,” Perry said in a memo obtained by Bloomberg, which was sent to his chief of staff, Brian McCormack.
Perry added that experts have “highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.” Baseload power plants are able to provide electricity around the clock, with limited interruptions. In contrast, wind and solar power are deemed intermittent because they are unable to provide electricity without interruption in a single 24-hour period.
The study comes as states struggle to find the right policies to keep their nuclear power plants from closing, as the low cost of natural gas continues to out-compete many older forms of baseload power, such as coal and nuclear.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the electric grid as the nation’s energy watchdog, is being looked at to solve many of the problems. But the federal commission is without a quorum and is waiting for President Trump to name new appointees to replenish the five-member panel. The watchdog has only two members left on the commission, which forced it to stop much of its decision-making responsibilities until it gets at least a third member.
The nuclear and coal industries want the commission to reassess how coal and nuclear plants are being compensated to ensure the grid remains stable amid the growing use of renewable energy. The coal industry doesn’t want the market to unfairly favor natural gas without fully recognizing the benefits that coal plants bring to the electric grid, including improved reliability and resilience.