DOE working on cost estimate for coal, nuclear plan — Perry

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 29, 2018

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said yesterday that his agency is working to determine the cost of a plan under consideration to assist struggling coal and nuclear plants.

“We don’t have a dollar estimate at this particular point in time. There’s actually a piece of work being done at this point in time; hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, we can hold that out to you,” he said during a press availability at the World Gas Conference.

But Perry also maintained that the dollar figure of the plan, which would involve directing electric grid operators to make payments to keep coal and nuclear plants running, is unimportant.

“You cannot put a dollar figure on the cost to keep America free, to keep the lights on,” he said.

The Trump administration has argued that the plants, which are struggling financially primarily due to competition from renewables and natural gas, are necessary to maintain grid resilience and therefore national security.

The plan under consideration came to light in a leaked memo earlier this month. It uses national security as a justification to create a list of financially vulnerable plants to receive payments as part of a “strategic generation reserve.” The move would employ rarely used authorities under the Federal Power Act and Defense Production Act.

A broad coalition of opponents, including clean energy supporters and grid operators, has panned the idea. Opponents say there is no imminent grid emergency and that energy markets should be allowed to work without interference.

Perry said today that the national security justification is “pretty obvious,” considering the risk of an event like a cyberattack.

“One of the reasons that we have a Department of Defense and we fund lot of different vessels and aircraft and personnel is to keep the country safe and keep it secure,” Perry said. “We look at the electrical grid as every bit as important to that effort as making sure that we have the right number of ships and aircrafts and military personnel to keep this country safe.”

DOE also today announced an initiative to support American energy companies investing in Latin America, along with the Overseas Private Investment Corp., a U.S. agency that helps American businesses invest in foreign countries.

The plan will provide $1 billion in political risk insurance, OPIC CEO Ray Washburne said.

“Our goal here is to create solutions that utilize the expertise, the goods, the services of our business in order to increase energy access and strengthen energy security and ultimately to effect prosperity and opportunity in this Western hemispheric region,” said Perry.