The U.S. power grid regulator on Monday rejected a directive by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to prop up aging coal and nuclear power plants, but said it had embarked on a new plan to determine whether the power grid is reliable.
Over the past decade, an influx of cheap natural gas and the rapid rise of renewable energy has transformed the nation's power sector, driving down electricity prices and pushing many older coal and nuclear plants into retirement.
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However, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission kept the issue alive by ordering the organizations that operate regional grids and power markets to submit reports to the commission on grid resilience issues in their areas.
Perry said the rule was necessary to keep the USA electric grid resilient during events such as the 2014 Polar Vortex, when disruptions to natural gas supplies during extreme cold contributed to power outages. "The record. does not demonstrate that such an outcome would be just and reasonable", FERC said in the filing. Multiple analyses of the NOPR's proposed changes found that they could add billions of dollars per year to energy costs for ratepayers in the grid markets most affected, while providing no appreciable improvement to grid reliability.
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At the same time, the commission said it shared Perry's stated goal of strengthening the "resilience" of the electricity grid and it directed regional transmission operators to provide information to help the commission examine the matter "holistically". "FERC's decision prioritizes deliberate, careful study over politicization".
Four of FERC's five commission members are Trump administration appointees.
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And Cheryl LaFleur, appointed by former President Obama, wrote that the NOPR "sought to freeze yesterday's resources in place indefinitely, rather than adapting resilience to the resources that the market is selecting today or toward which it is trending in the future".