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Experts say that Trump’s plan to save coal and nuclear power will not help the ‘security of the grid’

Trump Plan to Prop Up Coal, Nuclear Won’t Protect the Electric Grid   The Trump administration says it needs to support struggling coal and nuclear plants to safeguard the grid. Experts say it’ll do the opposite. U.S. News, By Alan Neuhauser, Staff WriterJune 4, 2018     PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP and Republican political leaders spent close to eight years accusing the Obama administration of picking winners and losers in the energy sector, but Trump’s order to the Energy Department last week to prop up failing coal and nuclear power plants does exactly what he vilified – and proposes the opposite of what’s needed to best safeguard the nation’s vulnerable electric grid, experts say.

Citing national security and defense concerns caused by the “rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix,” Trump on Friday directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources.”

The administration referred to coal and nuclear plants as “fuel-secure,” because they can house their fuel supplies on site, rather than relying on pipelines like natural gas plants.

Much remains unclear about the proposal, including how it will be implemented and how many plants it will seek to prop up. However, it encountered swift opposition from a broad range of energy experts, industry executives and advocates from across the spectrum. It’s also expected to face legal challenges in federal court, particularly from natural gas and renewables companies, which compete with coal and nuclear plants for market share.

Notably, a dispersed electric grid – one that relies on a diverse array of wind and solar power, in addition to natural gas, hydropower and, perhaps one day, advanced nuclear – is widely seen as far more resilient to attack or accident than one that depends on large, centralized power resources such as coal or large-scale nuclear.

The Defense Department, for example, is expected to spend as much as $1.4 billion by 2026 on developing decentralized electric systems known as micro-grids, and the Energy Department in 2015 partnered with private firms to research and develop distributed energy systems to boost the resilience for the civilian grid.

“If you really want security, you get away from all that and you decentralize the grid,” says David Bookbinder, chief counsel at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank in the nation’s capital.

In particular, he continues, “residential solar is the single most secure form of power we have in the United States: It’s secure both from a fuel supply side – no one’s blocking the sun – and a distribution side: it goes from roof into your house, so there’s no problem with the transmission. That is a secure energy supply.”

Trump last year introduced a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels, which is expected to crimp the solar industry’s growth in the coming years.

The biggest threat to the nation’s electric grid, meanwhile, isn’t believed to be an attack or accident that would take down a power plant but instead a disruption of the distribution network: the transmission lines, transformers and substations that carry electrons from the nation’s power plants to its homes and businesses.

……….”Most of the outages occur on the distribution system, which has nothing to do with the power plants connected to the system,” says John Larsen, director in the energy and climate practice at Rhodium Group, a research firm. “That’s not to say the loss of power from a particular plant doesn’t cause a loss of power here and there. But the vast majority of power outages occur elsewhere in the system.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees electricity markets, reached a similar conclusion in January, after the Trump administration made what was then its first attempt to subsidize struggling coal and nuclear plants.

FERC Commissioner Richard Glick, a Trump appointee, wrote in an opinion concurring with the agency’s decision to reject the administration’s proposal that “if a threat to grid resilience exists, the threat lies mostly with the transmission and distribution systems, where virtually all significant disruptions occur.”

The administration’s latest attempt to prop up coal and nuclear plants is expected to face similar challenges. The White House, in a memo made public last week, cited Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act, as well as the Defense Production Act, which authorizes the Energy Department to nationalize parts of the nation’s electric sector during wartime……….

Groups as varied as the Environmental Defense Fund and oil and gas firms have lambasted the administration’s announcement. Neil Bhatiya, research associate in the Energy, Economics and Security Program at the D.C.-based think tank Center for New American Security, was similarly dismissive. …….


June 6, 2018 - Posted by | politics, USA

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