The United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is leaning toward punting Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s request for a special annual subsidy for coal and nuclear power plants back to the electricity industry. Here’s how you can help it make the right decision.
Perry has asked FERC to enact a special rule that would require power distributors to pay a higher rate for electricity from generation facilities that maintain a 90-day supply of fuel, effectively limiting the mandate to plants powered by coal, nuclear, and reservoir-powered hydro generation.
Perry insists that subsidizing coal and nuclear generation is essential to maintain the “stability” of U.S. power grids—an assertion that has been contradicted by utilities themselves and by other experts. His proposed bailout has been rubbished (here and here) by knowledgeable critics for introducing discriminatory bias into American power markets, inspiring a strikingly wide alliance of opposition across the fossil-renewable energy divide.
Now the non-partisan Climate Policy Initiative and Energy Innovation have also estimated what Perry’s plan would cost U.S. taxpayers: US$10.6 billion a year, with most of that money going to “a handful of companies… on the eastern seaboard and in the Midwest,” the Guardian reports.
“The irony of putting costs on consumers for resources that are no longer competitive is really striking,” said Climate Policy Initiative’s Brendan Pierpont. “It would serve to keep a lot of uneconomic plants in the market that currently can’t compete with the changing dynamics of cheap gas and the falling cost of renewables.”
But fast approval of Perry’s bailout plan for the world’s dirtiest fuels is hardly a done deal, even from a FERC with the majority of its members appointed by the Trump administration.
Speaking at a conference, Trump appointee Robert Powelson said FERC intends to “stay out of the fuel wars.” E&E News [subs req’d] reports Powelson told his audience of energy heavyweights that the agency is “not in the business of putting our thumb on the scale for generation resource mix. The market drives that.”
Powelson said FERC “wants the regional transmission operators to take the lead on defining and pricing reliability,” and “won’t get mixed up in the food fight over which fuels are more reliable than others.”
You can help encourage FERC to reject Perry’s plan to spend billions on expensive, obsolete coal and nuclear plants that contribute to climate change and imperil good renewable energy jobs, by tweeting FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee.