What They’re Saying: Reliability and Energy Prices

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 2:48 pm, February 12, 2014

This week, we’ve seen a number of developments making energy news, and a major theme is emerging that’s shaping the conversation about the future of energy policy in the U.S.

The selection of a new chair for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, statements by energy industry experts and elected officials and an administration official telling Congress that new EPA regulations could raise electricity prices by as much as 80 percent have people talking about the reliability of our grid and energy costs.

It was announced yesterday that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been selected to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Her selection is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate, and her elevation to this position is good news for energy producers and consumers alike.

Senator Landrieu announced she will pursue an agenda that will be “inclusive, bipartisan and focused on the job creation that America needs and wants,.” She has a proven record of fighting back against EPA overreach in order to protect affordable reliable fossil fuels and works across the aisle, seeking commonsense solutions to use our most abundant resources, like coal, more efficiently and cleanly.

A leader like Senator Landrieu will be instrumental in shaping policies that keep energy prices affordable for our families and our businesses.

Unfortunately, Senator Landrieu’s commonsense approach isn’t the only thing shaping the future of energy policy.  The EPA and the Obama Administration are still pursuing new regulations that could cause an enormous price increase for energy consumers across the country.

Dr. Julio Friedmann, the deputy assistant secretary for clean coal at the Department of Energy, told members of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations yesterday that EPA’s plan to require Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology for all new coal plants could raise wholesale electricity costs by as much as 80 percent.

Dr. Friedmann’s statements confirm what we’ve long known to be true: CCS is still a developing technology.  It’s not yet a commercially viable option, and requiring new coal plants to install CCS will lead to higher energy prices for businesses and families.

As new regulations make it more costly to operate coal-fueled power plants, the continued retirement of these energy sources is likely to increase the probability of rising electricity prices and supply disruptions.

With the record low temperatures we experienced this January, we’ve seen an increased demand for energy.  What we learned last month is that without the power generated by coal, electric reliability is called into question. Additionally the price of other energy sources, like natural gas, can spike when people need it the most.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) highlighted the need to keep our energy mix diverse in response to this year’s extreme weather:

“Our reliance on installed, dispatchable power generation during extreme weather serves as a shining example of why diversity of baseload capacity is necessary to secure grid reliability. “

When we needed it the most, Americans turned to the power generated by coal to keep our lights on and our homes warm.  But with coal plants continuing to retire, what will happen when those units are no longer available?

In her comments on protecting the energy sources on which we rely, Sen. Murkowski expressed how tenuous our current policy direction is:

“What happens when that capacity is gone?  Maybe we won’t have cold periods like we’re seeing next year [and] we’ll be OK.  But what kind of policy is that?  A hope and a prayer, that’s not how we need to be operating here.”

We cannot afford this administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes coal.

We can’t stand by as government agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) deals with the issue of reliability by allowing PJM to offer power prices that exceed the market cap of $1,000 per megawatt hour.

Actions like those undertaken by FERC set a dangerous precedent that places the burden of increased electricity costs on ratepayers, rather than prompting a critical examination of the energy and environmental policies coming from the White House.

Politically motivated agendas should not be undermining America’s access to affordable, reliable energy at the expense of family budgets and businesses’ bottom lines.

 

 

 


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