Coal and nuclear plant owners wrap themselves in ‘resilience flag’ to draw Trump’s attention
New report downplays concerns about loss of coal and nuclear plants.
Until 2017, the “resilience” of the electric power sector had referred to the power grid’s ability to withstand and recover from extreme weather and other threats.
But the Trump administration, as it has with so many other issues, succeeded in distorting the meaning of the word and changing the conservation to reflect the priorities of the president and his political benefactors. Integral to this effort was when President Trump’s Department of Energy began equating grid resilience to a region’s ability to ensure there would be a plentiful amount of coal and nuclear generating capacity.
A new report, commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council, (NRDC), seeks to debunk claims made by the Trump administration about the relationship between grid resilience and coal and nuclear plants.
This comes at the same time as electric grid operator PJM Interconnection announced it will be conducting a study over the next few months “to understand the fuel-supply risks in an environment trending towards greater reliance on natural gas.”
One of the main takeaways from this week’s report by EDF and NRDC — “A Customer-Focused Framework for Electric System Resilience” — is that generation-related solutions, like keeping dirty coal and uneconomic nuclear plants online past their retirement dates, are the least-effective for improving resilience.
Generation and fuel supply shortages rarely cause customer outages and are not good at providing many essential reliability services, according to the report. Instead of wasting time and customers’ money using grid resilience as a reason to keep uneconomic coal and nuclear generators afloat, policy-makers should focus attention on creating more durable distribution systems, the report said.
In conjunction with the release of the report, John Moore and Gillian Giannetti, two attorneys at the NRDC, wrote Thursday in a blog post that coal and nuclear power plant owners have “wrapped themselves in the resilience flag” in an attempt to justify profit guarantees for their financially struggling resources.
Moore and Giannetti, who also work for the Sustainable FERC Project, said that issues with fuel supply — coal, uranium, natural gas, water, wind, and solar, for example — account for only 0.00007 percent of total grid disruptions. The Sustainable FERC Project is a coalition of state, regional, and environmental organizations pushing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to support policies that benefit clean energy resources.
So far, President Trump and his industry supporters have failed in their effort to reverse the fortunes of the coal and nuclear generation sectors. But Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the president still have certain powers at their disposal to help owners of coal and nuclear plants.
Perry, for example, could use his authority as head of the Department of Energy to spur emergency compensation for coal and nuclear plants run by FirstEnergy Solutions that may be at risk of shutting.