The acting chair of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may oblige the electricity distributors it oversees to pay above-market rates for coal and nuclear power, even before the agency reaches a decision on a US$11-billion subsidy for those sectors requested by the Trump administration.
According to Utility Dive, FERC Chair Neil Chatterjee suggested in an interview that his agency may direct electricity grid operators to “update their tariffs to keep plants online that provide ‘necessary resilience attributes’,” or prove why they shouldn’t have to.
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The manoeuvre would provide temporary relief to nuclear and coal plant owners while FERC considers an administration request to mandate extra payments to them, under the guise of compensating them for providing “baseload” resilience to U.S. power grids.
The rationale for the proposed subsidy to the two uneconomic energy sectors has been roundly savaged, and much of the rest of the American power sector opposes it. Nonetheless, Utility Dive reports, a senior Department of Energy officer, speaking to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners this week, said he was “confident” FERC would “dutifully consider and adopt” the administration’s contentious plan.
Chatterjee conceded that his backhanded, temporary measure would be “messy” and “uncomfortable”. He justified that by referring to assertions from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)—which oversees U.S. power grids—that “reliable and resilient operation of the bulk power system requires a balanced portfolio of diverse resources.”