Federal Electricity Study Hints at Future Support for Coal
By BRAD PLUMMER
New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday released a major report urging actions to protect the “reliability and resilience” of the nation’s electric grid, a move that could lay the groundwork for future support of America’s ailing coal and nuclear industries.
The 187-page study, commissioned by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April, recommends that federal regulators make changes to wholesale electricity markets that could potentially benefit existing coal and nuclear plants. Revenues for many of these facilities have slumped in recent years as electricity prices have declined, mostly because of cheap natural gas, the study said, but also as a result of low electricity demand growth and the rise of wind and solar power.
More than 200 coal plants and five nuclear reactors have closed across the United States since 2010, and President Trump has vowed to revitalize both industries, though doing so would require resisting powerful market forces reshaping the energy landscape.
The Energy Department report concedes that the nation’s electricity system remains reliable today, even with a sharp rise in intermittent wind and solar power, in part because natural gas generators and existing hydropower can easily fill any gaps in renewable generation.
But the study raises concerns that a future grid with fewer “baseload” coal and nuclear plants, which are capable of producing electricity around the clock, could pose challenges to grid operators trying to keep the lights on.