Thursday, August 24, 2017

Perry's Policy Review Pivots on Grid Resiliency

Energy Department staff released a comprehensive review of the challenges facing the U.S. power grid. [Credit: Dennis Schroeder/NREL (turbines); Margaret Kriz Hobson/E&E News (pipeline); hpgruesen/Pixabay (power lines)] Click to Enlarge.
An Energy Department policy report that started out as a rescue mission for the coal industry ended up, four months later, described as an evenhanded but inconclusive diagnosis of challenges facing the U.S. electric power system, from coal-burning plants and nuclear reactors to power produced by wind turbines and natural gas generators.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry had launched the study in April with a memo warning that coal and nuclear plants that he called essential to a reliable electricity supply were being undermined by environmental regulation and "market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others."

The 187-page study released last night concluded on the contrary that the grid is operating reliably.  Coal plant retirements have more than been made up for by new gas, wind, and solar power and demand-side electricity conservation programs.

The most important reason for the retirements of coal plants has "been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation" built on cheap gas from fracking, the report said. Other factors are anemic growth in demand for power, environmental regulations, and the operational and financial challenges some plant operators face when ramping up and down to accommodate a growing number of wind and solar units.

While no day-to-day reliability threats loom in ordinary circumstances, a DOE official said the report is meant as a warning that the nation's electric grids and systems are at a pivotal point. The replacement of coal plants by gas and intermittent wind and solar generation, and the spread of new digital controls means the grid's future resilience cannot be taken for granted, DOE said.

Read more at Perry's Policy Review Pivots on Grid Resiliency

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