January 5, 2018
A massive cold spell in the northeastern US is prompting the nuclear power and coal energy industries to call for new support for a plan by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to pay higher prices for for their services.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to make a decision on the Perry plan next week, but the timing of the cold snap that has resulted in 18 inches of snow in some places and single-digit high temperatures is bringing a new push for the plan, called the Energy Department’s Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule.
Icy flooding southeast of Boston. CNN image.
There have been thousands of utility outages — most of them restored quickly — but there have been concerns for new power losses as wind gusts reach tropical storm and even hurricane strengths along the Eastern Seaboard, as utilities crank up coal-fired plants that are usually offline to meet electricity demand.
Entergy‘s Pilgrim Nuclear power station in Plymouth, Massachusetts — one of the hardest-hit states — was taken offline Thursday because of a faltering transmission line, but most other nuclear plants are working near capacity, the Nuclear Energy Institute said Friday.
The “bomb cyclone” forced water inland from the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, flooding some areas south of Boston with icy water reaching above SUV tires, levels not matched since an historic blizzard in 1978.
But opposition to the plan is widespread, especially with the unlikely partners among environmentalists and natural gas proponents.
“The markets are functioning appropriately. We’re not seeing significant interruptions,” said Todd Snitchler, head of market development at the American Petroleum Institute.
Those opponents say the blizzard demonstrates not a need for the Resiliency Pricing Rule, but indeed shows no need for it — there have been no power service interruptions from electricity sources.
Still, there is no doubt nuclear and coal are in need of some help as public interest shifts toward new energy sources such as solar and wind power.
“The extreme cold illustrates the importance of having a diverse generation portfolio, and the vulnerabilities that could come if we relied on any one type of fuel source too heavily,” said Jennifer Young, spokeswoman for FirstEnergy Corp. said in a statement Friday.
FirstEnergy would be a major beneficiary of the Perry plan.
Nuclear does not shut down because of cold,” Nuclear Energy Institute spokesman Matt Wald told The Hill.