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New electricity grid study favorable for U.S. coal and mining industries

U.S. miner. Photo: Pexel, Common
U.S. miner. Photo: Pexel, Common
Published by
Markku Björkman - 27 Aug 2017

A much-anticipated Energy Department report on the electricity grid made recommendations for regulatory changes that would bolster coal and nuclear power plants.

The changes, if adopted, would alter the way prices are determined in electricity markets, ease environmental reviews for coal plants and speed the permitting process for a variety of energy sources, writes Washington Post.

The 187-page report rejects the notion that the coal and nuclear plants that have been forced to shut down over the past 16 years had been closed prematurely, noting that cheap, abundant natural gas had been the main factor — not environmental regulations or renewable energy sources as Republican leaders have contended.
“The biggest contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements has been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation,” the document states according to Washington Post.

The Energy Department document carries little weight on its own, and most of its recommendations fall in the turf of other departments and agencies.

But the report has been seen as a test of whether the Trump administration is going to politicize government studies and disregard scientific evidence.

The in-depth look at the state of the grid quickly drew praise from coal and nuclear groups, and sharp rebukes from environmental and solar energy groups.

Among the recommendations is one that suggests that the Environmental Protection Agency ease permitting requirements for new investments at coal-fired plants, a process known as new source review.

It said that “the uncertainty stemming from” EPA’s new source review “creates an unnecessary burden that discourages rather than encourages installation of C02 emission control equipment and investments in efficiency because of the additional expenditures and delays associated with the permitting process.”

The report also endorsed price changes that would prevent solar and wind energy from providing energy at negative prices, which they can do thanks to federal tax credits.

This hurts other energy suppliers, especially in the nuclear industry, and the recommendation was welcomed.