Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Has Trump derangement syndrome cost Texan lives? Back in 2017, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry proposed paying Coal and Nuclear Power Stations to keep at least 90 days worth of
coal fuel onsite, for disaster resilience.
At the time the resilience proposal was widely criticised as being a thinly disguised Trump scheme to pump government money into the coal and nuclear industries. But in hindsight, a bit more resilience might have saved Texas from days of painful electricity blackouts.
Rick Perry: DOE’s Coal, Nuclear Proposal Is ‘Rebalancing the Market’
Perry doubles down on arguments that the NOPR will protect Americans.
LACEY JOHNSON NOVEMBER 02, 2017
Energy Secretary Rick Perry said a proposed rule to subsidize coal and nuclear plants is “rebalancing the market” to correct for the Obama administration’s support of renewable energy.
They “clearly had their thumb on the scale toward the renewable side,” said Perry, who spoke about his energy policy priorities with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd and Axios CEO Jim VandeHei at an event in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
The DOE’s request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would upend decades of energy market policy by guaranteeing cost recovery for power plants with 90 days of fuel supply on-site — something that only nuclear power, a few hydropower sites, and some larger coal power plants can provide.
“If you can guarantee me that the wind is going to blow tomorrow, if you can guarantee me that the sun’s going to get to the solar panels…then I’ll buy into that. But you can’t,” said Perry.
The notice of public rulemaking, or NOPR, implies that there is a looming threat to grid reliability due to coal and nuclear power plant retirements. Its conclusions are largely based on an incomplete analysis of the 2014 polar vortex, which could have led to blackouts had several coal-fired plants now slated for closure not been available to serve the load.
The move has been widely criticized by clean energy advocates as politically motivated and factually unproven, and has drawn a backlash from major sectors of the energy industry.
…Read more: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/rick-perry-doe-coal-nuclear-proposal-is-rebalancing-the-market#gs.Fp8TJMg
Federal regulators rejected the plan, on the grounds that Rick Perry failed to provide enough evidence that retiring coal and nuclear plants was undermining grid stability. The plan was eventually dropped, after vigorous lobbying from gas and renewable energy groups.
Now that the scenario Rick Perry predicted has actually happened in Texas, it seems pretty obvious the Rick Perry was right about the risks. Nuclear power plants and fossil fuel plants which had access to adequate fuel supplies mostly stayed fully operational.
Why is government intervention required to ensure grid resilience?
Keeping several months worth of fuel onsite is a cost which does not contribute to company profits. The cost of all that reserve fuel represents money which could instead have been used to pay down capital debts, or pay out dividends to shareholders. Power companies which choose to wear this kind of expense are at a competitive disadvantage compared to power companies which run leaner operations, by running their reserves down to the bare minimum. The expense of keeping fuel in reserve impacts market share and company growth; consumers frequently flock to the lowest price energy service, without considering the long term consequences.
Rick Perry’s plan would have eliminated the financial penalty for keeping a fuel reserve onsite, by compensating power companies for the cost of maintaining substantial fuel reserves.
Given resilience payments seem to be a workable solution, will President Biden or Texas Governor Greg Abbott implement the 2017 Trump / Perry energy resilience plan, to ensure nothing like the Texas power outage disaster ever happens again?
Update (EW): Mark Baher reminds me I was critical of Rick Perry’s plan in 2017. At the time I was focusing on Perry’s explanation that he was seeking to “rebalance the market” against renewable subsidies – I had a vision of Perry’s plan kicking of a subsidy race, between proponents of renewables and proponents of fossil fuel and nuclear. What I didn’t realise was how limited reserves would be in a severe weather event. Perry was right, I was wrong.