Using emergency authority to boost money-losing coal plants

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Using emergency authority to boost money-losing coal plants

Postby Wilberforce » Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:03 am

Trump plans to use emergency authority to boost money-losing coal plants
The Energy Department is hatching plans to force grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants at risk of retirement.
Natasha Geiling
Jun 1, 2018, 9:56 am

President Donald Trump has promised, time and time again, to bring back coal. And, time and time again, he has failed to make good on that promise.

So the Energy Department is hatching a new plan, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News, to force grid operators to buy electricity from coal and nuclear plants at risk of retirement, effectively keeping those failing power plants afloat.

The 41-page memo, which circulated before a National Security Council Meeting, argues that “federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity.”

According to the memo, the Energy Department would exercise emergency authority under a pair of federal laws to compel grid operators to purchase electricity from a list of designated power plants for two years. During that two year period, the government would also conduct a study into vulnerabilities in the U.S. grid system.

According to Bloomberg, the move would signal an unprecedented intervention in the U.S. energy industry.

President Trump and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) are considering ways for taxpayers to subsidize the coal and nuclear power industries. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Trump considers Cold War-era law to save nation from ‘manufactured’ energy crisis

Pro-coal politicians proclaim taxpayer bailout is needed to protect the homeland.

The move has been under consideration for months, with pro-coal politicians like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) urging the president to use federal emergency powers to prevent the closure of coal and nuclear power plants. Some of Trump’s biggest donors — including coal executive and CEO of Murray Energy, Bob Murray — have also pushed for the move.

First Energy Corp. — a major electric utility company — has also urged Perry in recent months to use a Cold War-era law to rescue its failing coal and nuclear power plants. First Energy asked that the Energy Department create an order that forces grid operators to buy from coal and nuclear plants that have 25 days of onsite fuel supply for four years. First Energy recently announced that three of its nuclear plants would be retiring in the next few years.

The Trump administration has long championed the concept that coal and nuclear power plant retirements — which have been retiring in record numbers in recent years — pose a threat to the stability of the U.S. grid. Last year, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry commissioned a study that looked at how renewable energy might be forcing premature retirement of coal and nuclear plants, and thus contributing to grid instability.

A leaked draft of the report, however, found the opposite, concluding that coal and nuclear retirements were largely the result of “long-standing drop in electricity demand relative to previous expectation and years of low electric prices driven by high natural gas availability.” The draft also found that those retirements posed little threat to the stability of the grid, noting that “the power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.”

Perry, for his part, took a different approach in his letter included with the report’s final draft, arguing that renewable subsidies and certain regulations undermined the stability of the grid — essentially setting the stage for the emergency action outlined in the leaked memo.

Despite claiming in a 2011 presidential debate that the federal government should reassure the public that it is “not going to pick winners and losers from Washington, D.C.,” Perry has tried once before as Energy Secretary to prop up coal and nuclear, submitting a plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last year that would have subsidized coal and nuclear plants. FERC unanimously voted to reject the proposal.

source ... 7e1ea58ac/

quote from the article:
"considering ways for taxpayers to subsidize the coal and nuclear power industries"

These are the champions of the free market, who tirelessly preach about stopping government interference. :lol:
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Re: Using emergency authority to boost money-losing coal plants

Postby Wilberforce » Fri Jun 01, 2018 4:39 pm

Arnold Schwarzenegger smokes Trump’s coal bailout plan with one hilarious tweet
Brad Reed
01 Jun 2018 at 12:20 ET

Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday slammed the Trump administration for going out of its way to bail out struggling coal plants by forcing grid operators to buy electricity from them.

“I eagerly await the administration’s regulations protecting pagers, fax machines, and Blockbuster,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) June 1, 2018

The administration’s reported plan to artificially prop up coal plants has drawn widespread criticism as a backward-looking plan that keeps dying industries on life support while stunting the growth of emerging renewable energy resources.

With his joke about fax machines, Schwarzenegger is clearly saying that he believes coal plants are obsolete and shouldn’t be kept alive just because Trump made a promise to help coal miners.

Schwarzenegger has regularly taunted Trump on Twitter by mocking him over his low approval ratings, among other things.

source ... ous-tweet/
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Re: Using emergency authority to boost money-losing coal plants

Postby Wilberforce » Mon Jun 04, 2018 8:39 am

Trump to bail out coal industry by raising U.S. electricity rates, especially on his voters

Trump plans to enrich his rich crony friends at the expense of American consumers.
Joe Romm
Jun 4, 2018, 10:52 am

President Trump has ordered Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take “immediate steps” to bailout unprofitable coal and nuclear plants.

This move, initiated on Friday, will inevitably increase electricity rates and pollution for all Americans. Perry is already drafting a plan that would prevent grid operators from replacing dirty coal power with cheaper and far less polluting natural gas, solar, and wind power.

Those hardest hit by Trump’s order will be the states where the most money-losing power plants reside. And, ironically, the most uneconomic coal plants are in the Southeastern states, which overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump.

Indeed, in March, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released a detailed analysis of the most unprofitable plants, which “paints a particularly bleak picture for coal plants in the regulated Southeast”. As the chart below demonstrates, the biggest money losers are represented by the large, dark red dots.

According to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News, the Department of Energy (DOE) is already putting together a plan to use emergency authority (provided under two federal laws) to force the operators of the electric grid to purchase power from a list of designated plants for two years.

Invoking the laws, however, requires some sort of national security emergency — so any such ruling is expected to be challenged in court. After all, there is no security threat posed by replacing expensive dirty energy plants with cheaper cleaner ones.

Indeed, the bigger security threat to Americans would come from continuing to run unprofitable coal plants — a move that will worsen climate change, perhaps the biggest preventable threat to US security today.

Nonetheless, on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying the bailout of coal and nuclear plants is needed for national security purposes: “Impending retirements of fuel-secure power facilities are leading to a rapid depletion of a critical part of our nation’s energy mix, and impacting the resilience of our power grid.”

So-called “fuel-secure power facilities” are plants that have a large supply of fuel onsite and are therefore supposed to be more reliable.

But the problem for the new plan by Trump and Perry is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the retirement of money-losing coal and nuclear plants makes the electric grid less reliable and resilient.

In fact, back in January, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — which oversees the U.S. grid — unanimously rejected a very similar plan by Perry to raise consumer energy bills in order to bail out coal and nuclear power plants.

The unanimous vote was especially notable since 3 of the 5 commissioners are Trump appointees, including the new chair.

In its ruling, FERC slapped down Perry’s main argument that somehow cheap renewables (and natural gas) are forcing essential coal and nuclear plants to be shut down. They note that “the extensive comments submitted” by the grid operators “do not point to any past or planned generator retirements that may be a threat to grid resilience.”

Indeed, to make his case, Perry had to ignore his own grid study, which had made clear renewables were not a threat to power reliability.

The new Trump plan has uniquely broad opposition. “This has got to be one for the record books,” tweeted New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton. “Oil industry joins with solar and wind industry to condemn Trump admin plan to prop up coal industry by forcing electric grid to buy coal power. Oil/wind/solar as allies? Fascinating times.”

The truth is that the only people who benefit from keeping money-losing plants open are rich coal barons like Bob Murray, a big Trump donor who has been pushing for this bailout for over a year.

Everyone else in the country — and most especially Trump’s own voters — would have to pay for this bailout, with higher electricity bills and with the public health costs that come from having dirtier air.

source ... a2b473c53/
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Re: Using emergency authority to boost money-losing coal plants

Postby Wilberforce » Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:54 pm

Everybody hates Trump’s coal and nuclear bailout plan
Except the president's favorite coal industry executive and a bankrupt nuke company.
Mark Hand
Jun 7, 2018, 4:54 pm

President Donald Trump’s fixation on bailing out the coal and nuclear power industries has proved confounding to renewable energy advocates and climate activists. But other sectors of the energy industry, including one that Trump purportedly wants to help, are also questioning the need for the radical intervention in energy markets proposed last week.

The White House issued a statement last Friday that said Trump has directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to “prepare immediate steps to stop the loss” of what the administration described as “fuel-secure power facilities,” a thinly veiled reference to coal and nuclear power plants. Also last Friday, Bloomberg News released a leaked draft proposal from the Energy Department that cited national security concerns as a reason for allowing Trump to require regional grid operators or electric utilities to purchase enough power from coal and nuclear plants to prevent them from closing.

But most of the energy industry concedes there’s no emergency that requires the federal government to intervene on behalf of coal and nuclear power.

Speaking earlier this week at an industry conference, Chris Crane, the CEO of Exelon Corp, the nation’s largest owner of nuclear plants, said the retirement of coal and nuclear plants is not a grid emergency that warrants urgent intervention from the federal government.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), one of the president’s biggest industry supporters, also opposes Trump’s directive. The powerful oil and gas lobbying group has joined a diverse coalition that includes wind, solar, and energy storage trade groups to fight any proposed bailout of the coal and nuclear industries that may come from Trump’s Department of Energy.

The renewable energy industry worries about the bailout plan’s potential negative impact on its finances. Investment banks and private equity firms may become skittish about investing in energy sectors that are not on the receiving end of Trump’s handouts.

“It’s a very confused and conflicted and backward-leaning policy that is finding support in no quarters apart from the coal industry,” John Morton, senior fellow at the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council, told ThinkProgress. “It seems like a Hail Mary pass and a dangerous political gesture at best. There’s no support for it, not simply from the renewables industry but from most parts of the nuclear industry.”

Morton was one of the speakers at an event on Thursday in Washington, D.C. — that offered a status update on the global move to a clean energy economy — sponsored by the Atlantic Council, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century. Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council is a think tank that focuses on international affairs.

In his interview with ThinkProgress, Morton asked why the Trump administration would seek to interfere in an electric power marketplace that is functioning fairly efficiently. “There is only one answer,” Morton said in response to his own question. “And it’s pure politics and it’s pure politics to a relatively small base. In the long run, it’s going to set us back in this race to a clean energy future.”

Tom Kiernan, CEO of of the American Wind Energy Association, pointed out at the event that despite claims of a pending catastrophe, the nation’s electric grid operators “are on the record saying that the orderly phaseout of some of these very expensive coal and nuclear plants does not constitute an emergency.”

Kiernan emphasized that coal and nuclear plants do not necessarily improve grid resilience, even though they have onsite fuel supply. During the polar vortex of early 2014, huge amounts of coal-fired plants stopped operating because their onsite supply of coal froze. In 2011, a terrible cold snap in Texas led to frozen coal supplies and prevented equipment on some coal plants from operating properly, forcing coal units to shut down.

More recently, Hurricane Harvey knocked out two coal-fired power plants in Texas “because that wonderful onsite fuel was flooded,” Kiernan pointed out. Operators had to shut down a few wind farms in Texas due to tropical storm-strength winds. But other wind farms “powered right through” the storm, producing large amounts of electricity from the high wind speeds, he said.

Nuclear plants also often face unscheduled outages due to equipment failures or extreme weather, calling into question whether their continued operation creates a more resilient electric grid.

“The notion of promoting nuclear power on the basis of resilience is playing to its weakness,” argued Greg Wetstone, president and CEO of ACORE. “The one thing that history has demonstrated about nuclear power is that it is not resilient, and you can talk to the people at Fukushima about that.”

Morton also fears the Trump administration’s pro-fossil fuel policies are skewing policymakers’ views on renewable energy. The transition to a low-carbon economy is occurring at an extraordinarily fast clip, and one that is faster than most people realize, he told the audience.

"Making policy without good data is inefficient, sub-optimal and, when comes to climate and clean energy, dangerous." Today at @AtlanticCouncil , @ACGlobalEnergy's John Morton kicks off our US launch of the @ren21 Global Renewables Status Report 2018, in partnership with @ACORE

— David Livingston (@DLatAC) June 7, 2018

There is “a dangerous gap currently between the perception of where we are in this transition to a low-carbon economy and the reality of how quickly that transition is occurring,” he said.

“If the U.S. pretends that we are playing in a world in which renewables is 2 percent of annual new energy installations and not 70 percent, which it was last year, you make a very different set of policy decisions about how to position your industry,” he said.

The lack of awareness of renewable energy’s rapid growth — and a bias toward fossil fuels — is ingrained in the thinking of Trump administration officials.

But Morton also cautioned that the current trajectory of the clean energy movement is still not occurring fast enough. “We’re not on a 2-degree pathway [set] in the Paris agreement goals,” he said. “And, of course, there are many people, myself included, that agree a 2-degree pathway is insufficient to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change.”

Those who do support Trump’s directive last week have telling motivations.

Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, one of the few supporters of Trump’s bailout plan for the coal-fired generation, revealed the real reason he supports the initiative in an interview on Fox News Business on Thursday.

He pointed to the fact that coal’s share of the nation’s electric generation capacity is projected to drop from its peak of 58 percent three decades ago to 27 percent by 2020. This will undoubtedly have a negative impact on Murray Energy’s domestic revenues, even though the company is one of the most financially stable coal companies in the nation.

On Wednesday, E&E News shed new light on the close relationship between Murray and the Trump administration. The news service reported that Murray presented Trump administration officials with half a dozen draft executive orders in 2017 aimed at exiting the Paris climate agreement and reducing coal regulations.

Another one of the few supporters of Trump’s plan is FirstEnergy Solutions, the bankrupt nuclear plant-owning company that petitioned Perry earlier this year to use the emergency powers of the Federal Power Act to order regional grid operator PJM to bail out a long list of nuclear and coal power plants. At the time, NRG Energy, one of FirstEnergy’s competitors in the region, described the request as a “manufactured crisis.”

A new filing in FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy case detailed how lobbyists at Akin Gump, a powerful law and lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., spent hundreds of hours in April working on a renewed campaign to secure bailouts for the utility’s coal and nuclear power plants from the Trump administration and state lawmakers in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

source ... 1aa4fb3cf/
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