DOE Study Concludes Coal, Gas and Nuclear Critical to Grid Resiliency

A wind farm in Golice Poland

The 187-page report, which DOE released tonight, was ordered by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April to review the closure of "baseload" coal and nuclear plants and "market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others". They also include misguided proposals to gut environmental rules for coal and nuclear plants and to pay fossil resources for reliability services that DOE hasn't demonstrated are necessary. "The report notes grid operators can integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy without threatening reliability, but that resources like energy storage that can make variable resources like solar and wind available 24/7 are becoming increasingly important".

The report hands President Donald Trump a plan for fulfilling his campaign promise to revive America's ailing coal industry and put miners back to work. By contrast, the final report cautions that "market designs may be inadequate" to keep "traditional" power generation online.

Natural gas, not renewable energy, is the primary driver behind coal and nuclear power plant retirements, according to a highly-anticipated Department of Energy study released this week. Policies favoring solar and wind energy have also played a role, the study shows.

The United States has seen a wave of coal and nuclear power plant closures over the last decade. The report argues that even natural gas-fired generators, which rely on pipelines to receive fuel, may be less resilient.

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The American Petroleum Institute noted that natural gas is now the source of more electricity in the US than any other fuel and has cut consumers' energy costs "without government mandates and subsidies".

But Alvin Ganesan, vice president of federal policy for Advanced Energy Economy, says that's not the case.

"We maintain that the existing and continued federal and state interventions in energy markets including subsidies, mandates, and unnecessary regulations are a far greater threat to the power grid than inclement weather, physical attacks, or cyber attacks". It offered a list of policy recommendations to reverse the trend, including providing power pricing advantages for baseload plants to continue operating, and speeding up and reducing costs for permitting for baseload power and transmission projects. NY and IL recently established subsidies for nuclear power and others are considering doing the same.

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