Subcommittee to examine grid implications of coal’s decline

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013

A key House subcommittee tomorrow will examine how electric utilities are adjusting to shifts away from coal and toward natural gas and intermittent renewable sources in the United States.

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will invite public and investor-owned utility executives to testify on the role of a “diverse electricity generation portfolio.”

A briefing memo from the committee’s Republican majority makes clear that the declining role of coal — driven by cheap natural gas, new environmental regulations and the growth of renewable sources like wind and solar — will be among the key areas of focus.

“This dramatic shift away from the use of coal has significant implications for the diversity of the U.S. electricity generation portfolio, for electricity suppliers, and for their customers,” the memo says. “As the U.S. incorporates greater amounts of intermittent renewable resources into the nation’s generation mix, the need to maintain diversity in the baseload power portfolio is critical.”

Further shifts away from coal are expected over the next three to five years, as natural gas prices are projected to remain low and U.S. EPA is expected to implement new regulations effectively outlawing the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they include uneconomic carbon capture technology, the GOP memo argues.

Schedule: The hearing is Tuesday, March 5, at 10 a.m. in 2322 Rayburn.

Witnesses: Mark McCullough, executive vice president for generation, American Electric Power Co. Inc.; William Mohl, president, Entergy Wholesale Commodities; Benjamin Fowke III, president and CEO, Xcel Energy; Marc Gerken, PE, president and CEO, American Municipal Power Inc.; and Patrick Pope, president and CEO, Nebraska Public Power District.