Citing Trump initiative, grid operator delays report
Perry wants to halt shutdowns of coal, nuclear plants
A TRUMP ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVE to financially buttress struggling coal and nuclear power plants is prompting the operator of the New England power grid to put off the release of a long-awaited fuel security study.
The study’s release was delayed because the Trump administration initiative “raised the potential for significant changes to the wholesale electricity markets in the US,” according to a statement issued Friday by the grid operator, known as the Independent System Operator, or ISO, for New England.
Three coal power plants remain in New England – two in New Hampshire and one in Connecticut, which is scheduled to go out of service in 2021. Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is scheduled to shut down in 2019. The other nuclear plants in New England are Seabrook in New Hampshire and Millstone in Connecticut.
ISO-New England has been working on its fuel security study since late 2016 and planned to release it Oct. 24. Few details have been released about the study, but it appears to focus on whether New England’s heavy reliance on natural gas for generating electricity could eventually put the grid at risk without the construction of additional pipeline capacity. The study is expected to analyze fuel security for the winter of 2024-2025 “because challenges to power system reliability are expected to be manageable in the near term.”
Coal and nuclear power plants have been shutting down in New England and across the country because they have been unable to compete with plants fueled by cheaper natural gas. But Perry in his letter appeared to put much of the blame on regulators of wholesale power markets, such as ISO New England, who have under-valued “grid reliability and resiliency benefits provided by traditional baseload resources, such as coal and nuclear.”
Coal and nuclear power plants have the capability of storing fuel on site so they can keep running even if supplies are disrupted temporarily. “The continued loss of baseload generation with on-site fuel supplies, such as coal and nuclear, must be stopped,” Perry said. “These generation resources are necessary to maintain the resiliency of the electric grid.”
Perry’s letter comes at a time when New England states are moving away from coal and nuclear power plants and trying to shift to renewable forms of energy. Indeed, much of the energy debate in Massachusetts has been focused on whether the longer-term transition to cleaner forms of energy can be accomplished without increasing the region’s reliance on natural gas.The ISO-New England said in its statement that the wholesale market for electricity that it oversees has been effective in keeping the lights on while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and wholesale power prices. The ISO said it favors, “whenever feasible,” allowing the competitive market to determine which power plants should run.
“Providing full cost recovery for certain technologies and not others will ultimately undermine the competitive wholesale market construct,” the ISO said in its statement. The grid operator said it plans to file comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission supporting its market-based approach.