Energy reserves available to the power grid for peak use could be
cut in half, says an industry report, as power plants are retired
for noncompliance with stiffer clean-air and clean-water rules.
Four federal environmental regulations to improve water and air
quality could by 2018 chop by nearly half the amount of projected
reserve energy available to the US power grid, says a new report.
Nationwide, hundreds of coal-, oil-, and gas-fired power plants,
with a collective capacity of about 76,000 megawatts (one megawatt
provides enough power for about 750 homes), could be retired if the
forthcoming rules are implemented under the fastest proposed
timeline, says the report by the North American Electric Reliability
Corp. (NERC), an industry group charged with ensuring grid
reliability. A "moderate" pace of implementation would lead to a
46,000-megawatt cut in reserve generating capacity, it says.
NERC determines the amount of generating capacity that needs to
be on standby to meet peak electricity load in the summer months and
to cover for any unexpected generating outages. That "planning
reserve margin" would drop by almost half if the environmental rules
are implemented under the fastest possible scenario. Under a
"moderate" timetable for implementation, the reduction in reserve
capacity would be less.
"The results of this assessment show a significant potential
impact to reliability should the four EPA rules be implemented as
proposed," said Gerry Cauley, NERC president and CEO, in a
Mr. Cauley did not argue that the environmental rules are
impossible to accommodate, but he did say a longer implementation
time will probably be needed.
"To ensure bulk power system reliability, the proposed rules
should provide sufficient time to acquire replacement resources,
offsetting the reductions in capacity from unit retirements and
deratings from environmental control retrofits," he said.
Utility companies have long argued that tougher environmental
regulations would reduce grid reliability. Environmental groups and
some green energy groups hailed the report, saying that its close
examination proves that three of the four rules would have little or
no impact on grid reliability.
"The NERC assessment affirms that the electric power industry can
maintain electric system reliability while improving our air quality
and protecting public health," said Michael Bradley, executive
director of the Clean Energy Group, a coalition of electricity
generating and electricity distribution companies committed to
environmental stewardship, in a statement. …