Posts filed under Reliability

Protecting Our Electricity Grid

Last week, I penned a response to National Journal’s “Energy Insiders” on the important topic of securing America’s electricity grid. While we certainly must protect our grid from cyber and physical attacks, we must also be concerned about another critical threat to the grid: power outages and electricity shortages due to reliability.

FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller has been vocal recently about these impending energy shortages. At a U.S. Energy Association meeting last week, he warned that the grid will likely stay reliable during mild weather, assuming we don’t experience periods of extreme hot or cold, but this is “not a sound basis of planning,” to hope the thermometer doesn’t tip either direction. This is an important point that should not be lost and something I discussed in my National Journal response.

Here is what I wrote:

 

Grid security has become a hot topic in Washington. Unfortunately, the discussion has focused on just one aspect—cyber security—of a much broader issue. Indeed, there is another security threat to our electric grid that has been downplayed by this administration; a threat that, ironically, has a common-sense and achievable solution.

This past winter brought historically cold temperatures to many parts of the country that resulted in widespread concerns with electric grid reliability. These concerns were well founded as we saw firsthand what happens when politically driven, costly regulations are imposed on coal-based industries that exclude the use of coal from our energy portfolio.

As natural gas price spikes and infrastructure and transport concerns strained the grid, prompting fears of blackouts and brownouts, it is not surprising that utilities turned to coal to ensure the power stayed on. In fact, AEP was running nearly 90 percent of its coal plants currently slated for closure just to help meet demand for power during the coldest days.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claims that coal will “play a critical role in a diverse U.S. energy mix for years to come” and also alleges her agency is focused on protecting electric reliability. A recent study from ACCCE, however, projects that 25 to 40 percent of the nation’s coal fleet could be shuttered depending on the stringency of EPA’s forthcoming 111(d) proposal, costing consumers $13 billion to $17 billion per year in higher electricity and natural gas prices.

Administrator McCarthy and others in this administration have so far only offered misleading statements about reliability concerns, maintaining that EPA’s regulations will not impact coal usage and that the agency will work to protect and preserve reliability.

We know these claims to be untrue, as EPA greenhouse gas regulations will impose a de facto ban on new coal-fueled power plants and likely force retirements of existing plants across the country which will, in fact, cause serious reliability issues that still haven’t been addressed by this administration.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hosted a hearing on grid reliability, but no representative from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testified about these very real reliability concerns associated with the agency’s regulatory assault on coal.

Some members of the committee, like Senators Manchin and Murkowski, raised concerns about how EPA regulations play into the broader grid security issue. Unfortunately, it seems that this administration is doing all it can to quell such concerns and continue leading America toward an energy policy that wholly disregards cost and reliability consequences.

Diminished electric reliability is certainly a threat to our well-being, to our economy and to our national security. It makes America less competitive, and it puts us all in harms’ way. In order to make headway on protecting grid security, we must have a more comprehensive and candid dialogue about all the looming threats.


Protecting Grid Reliability Now, So We Don’t Regret it Later

Last week, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on electric grid reliability concerns—something that was definitely necessary after a series of Wall Street Journal articles came out highlighting the vulnerability of the grid if there were to be a coordinated attack in conjunction with internal analysis from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). While those that normally contribute to the discussion of grid reliability were well represented, it was notable that EPA was absent from the hearing.

This winter was one of the coldest we’ve had in a while, and the changing temperatures all but gave us whiplash. Thanks to coal-based electricity, however, none of us truly suffered the bite of Old Man Winter as the power stayed on. The same may not be true this summer when coal-fueled plants that were running at full capacity this winter come off line due to EPA regulations. In fact, we could all be in for a rude awakening when rolling brownouts and blackouts begin this summer due to an overreliance on one fuel source that is just not capable of meeting demand in real time.

In terms of generating electricity, coal-based power has some general advantages over natural gas that are magnified under conditions like the polar vortex. Natural gas is a “just-in-time fuel”, piped in as power plants use it – so pipeline disruptions due to a drop in temperature or spike in demand impact generation in real time. Coal, on the other hand, is stock-piled at the plant and generally not subject to such disruptions. Further, the price of coal has remained historically steady, whereas the price of natural gas has been much more volatile. Moving forward, we can expect that the price of natural gas will continue to rise much more rapidly than the price of coal. EIA projects that real natural gas prices for electric power generation will increase three times more than coal over the next 20 years.

Since American Electric Power (AEP) ran about 90% of its coal plants that are set to retire in 2015 to help meet demand through the coldest days of winter, it makes you wonder why people want to eliminate the most reliable form of electricity. Further, it begs the question as to why EPA isn’t front and center at a hearing on reliability when its regulations will be responsible for all but ensuring an unreliable grid and higher electricity costs for all.

There’s still time for you to tell EPA that you want a reliable source of affordable electricity. Visit www.EPAregscostjobs.com today and make your voice heard.

 


Leaders Convene to Discuss Future of Energy at ECO:nomics

This week, the Wall Street Journal hosted its ECO:nomics business forum in sunny Santa Barbara, California. Several CEOs and business leaders gathered together to discuss America’s energy and environmental future. How do we meet our ever-growing electricity needs, while also reducing emissions? Many leaders agreed: coal is here to stay, and we must utilize clean coal technology.

Nick Akins, CEO of American Electric Power, reiterated the importance of coal-fueled power to support our electrical grid. Utilities like AEP depend on coal, a reality that was evident during the recent ‘polar vortexes’ and throughout the frigid winter. Around 90% of AEP’s coal plants currently slated for closure was brought online to help meet demand and power through the coldest days. As Akins told ECO:nomics attendees, we need coal backing up our electricity grid because “no one likes the lights to go out.”

Akins was followed by Peabody Energy Corp. CEO Gregory Boyce. Boyce and Akins carried a similar message: coal is critical and will be an integral part of our energy mix for years to come. It is the largest source of electricity generation in the U.S. and the fastest-growing source around the world. Boyce noted that Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are all increasing their imports of coal, and Asia has been steadily increasing its use of coal, as well.

Coal-fueled power is electrifying communities across the globe and can bring power to all those who need it most, Boyce explained. Given Boyce’s commentary at the conference, it’s not surprising that Peabody is leading a global effort to help promote coal’s role in eradicating poverty through its newly launched Advanced Energy for Life campaign.

Both Boyce and Akins stressed the importance of further developing clean coal technology. In the words of Nick Akins, “progress is being made but not enough.” Boyce pointed out that building new clean coal plants is an opportunity to decarbonize. They both agreed that coal must be a major part of our future energy portfolio to ensure reliability, while also limiting emissions with advanced technology. But, if EPA continues with its crusade against coal-based electricity, the future of clean coal technology will be effectively quashed.

Instead we should support advanced technologies and maintain low-cost, reliable power for our communities through the use of America’s most abundant source of energy – coal.


Another Polar Vortex Highlights the Problems with Over-Reliance on Natural Gas

Milder spring temperatures may be on the horizon, but not before another cold snap sweeps the nation. This winter, we’ve seen what can happen when a polar vortex strikes: consumers are asked to cut back on electricity, our power grids are stretched to the limit and natural gas prices skyrocket. Extreme temperatures have highlighted the problems associated with an over-reliance on any one fuel source, like natural gas, for baseload electricity.

Underscoring these problems, the Washington Post reported this morning that homeowners can expect to see particularly steep natural gas bills this winter. The article reports that a typical gas consumer may see a bill of $388, a 17 percent rate increase from just a year ago.

Despite these recent, real-world examples, the president and his EPA remain unfazed and are proceeding as planned to all but ensure that America doesn’t have the affordable, reliable energy it needs to keep the lights on and businesses running.  Of course, American consumers will ultimately foot the bill for the president’s politically driven—and very costly—energy policy. And, based on recent data, we now know that low- and middle-income families are most vulnerable to increased energy costs, which often force them to choose between keeping their heat on and putting food on their tables.

The simple fact is that coal remains the most reliable, affordable energy source in America. Coal can be stored on-site and held in reserve, unlike natural gas, which is a “just-in-time” fuel that is piped in when needed and is susceptible to roller coaster prices. Using less coal, and instead relying too heavily on resources like natural gas, solar, wind and renewables, could undermine the reliability of our electric grid and threaten volatile price swings and overall higher bills for ratepayers.

It’s encouraging to see that our elected officials on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country are recognizing the dire consequences of this administration’s rulemaking—and taking action to stop it. The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing this Thursday, February 27, to discuss American energy successes, as well as electric reliability and grid issues. The hearing is very timely, since temperatures across the country are expected to drop later this week—reinforcing the sobering lessons from this winter’s cold snap.

We’ll be live tweeting from the hearing, so be sure to tune in on Twitter for updates throughout the morning. And while you’re at it, sign our petition and tell EPA that coal must continue to be a part of America’s energy future.

 


What They’re Saying: Reliability and Energy Prices

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.

 

 

 


Businesses Need Affordable Energy

Yesterday it was announced that Big Rivers Electric Corp plans to idle two of their coal-fired power plants in Kentucky.

The news isn’t all bad though, as Marty Littrel, a spokesman for Big Rivers pointed out:

“This is a temporary thing. We have some of the lowest-cost power in the country and have made proposals to sell electricity to several other companies.”

Big Rivers produces power at some of the most affordable rates in the country. On average, its rate is 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour, well below the national industrial average of 6.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Affordable energy is what coal provides, and it’s exactly what American businesses need. From large manufacturers to small business owners, affordable, reliable power from coal drives our economy.

What American businesses don’t need is an activist administration that is pursuing harmful regulations that will make it impossible to build future, clean coal-fueled power plants. Failure to ensure long-term, use of one of our most abundant fuel sources, will all but guarantee not only higher energy costs but also less reliable energy than what is currently provided by coal.

That’s why we need your help. We need you to tell this administration that you need the affordable power coal provides.

Sign our letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy


Help Us Promote Coal Jobs and Coal Communities

When it comes to the coal industry, our member companies as well as state and regional coal associations are doing some of the most important work promoting coal jobs and coal communities.

The job of promoting coal as an affordable, reliable and vital piece of our energy future is as important today as it’s ever been.

Earlier this week, after a four month delay, the EPA finally added their propose New Source Performance Standards to the Federal Register, taking the next step in finalizing a set of unachievable standards in an unattainable timeframe.

Even with widespread outcry about the problematic nature of NSPS from experts, including those on EPA’s own payroll, the draft posted this week is nearly identical to the draft released in September of last year.

“One must wonder what EPA was doing for the four months it took to post its NSPS to the Federal Register, since the rule remains just as destructive and ill-conceived as it was in September,” said ACCCE President and CEO Mike Duncan.

Mike continued to say: “Contrary to claims made by EPA and other Administration officials, NSPS is just another step in President Obama’s dangerous climate change campaign that’s putting America’s energy future in jeopardy.”

What’s so troubling about this dangerous path forward is how hard these proposed rules will hit our coal communities.

Earlier this week, Bill Bissett, the President of the Kentucky Coal Association, spoke to a local Chamber of Commerce about the importance of coal for Kentuckians.

He noted that more than 90 percent of Kentucky’s electricity is generated by coal, and because of that, Kentucky has one of the lowest electricity rates in the country.

If the EPA has its way, states like Kentucky that count on could see more coal jobs disappear and face much higher energy costs.

That’s why we’re shining a spotlight on the Kentucky Coal Association and the work they do to ensure that the people of Kentucky have reliable and affordable energy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t win this fight without you.  Along with our member companies and other coal associations, we need your support to tell the EPA that Americans count on coal.

Please take a moment to sign our letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to let her know you want to protect American energy jobs from overreaching ill-conceived policies.

Add you name to our letter. Help all of us protect coal jobs and coal communities.


Why We’re All Counting on Coal

With temperatures dropping across the U.S., our families and friends are counting on reliable and affordable energy to keep them warm.

It’s no surprise that the demand for energy to heat homes is on the rise.

This week’s cold weather serves to remind us just how important it is to have reliable energy we can count on.

Other fuel sources are experiencing price spikes and strains in supplies in many areas, while the affordable electricity from coal, one of our most abundant domestic energy resources, is keeping the lights on.  Take a look at the below to see how coal stacks up against other fuel sources.