Tesla Joins Berkshire Hathaway in Wading Into U.S. Grid Debate

Source: By Stephen Cunningham, Bloomberg • Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2018

At the start of the year, federal regulators spurned Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear plants to guarantee the “resilience” of the U.S. power system.

Instead, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered regional grid operators to look at how resilience should be measured and let the agency know whether any action needed to be taken to prop up the grid. They answered mostly in the negative.

Companies including Tesla Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s energy unit threw in their two cents on Wednesday. Here’s a sampling of their views:

  • Tesla wants the definition of resilience to be centered on customers, “for whom the entire electricity system is designed and operated,” rather than the availability of any particular generation or transmission resource. It also highlighted the role that energy storage and distributed resources can play in backing up the grid during an emergency, citing examples in South Australia, Florida and Puerto Rico.
  • Berkshire Hathaway said the energy regulator has a history of identifying issues to be fixed based on new evidence. “No such record currently exists requiring immediate action on resilience at this time,” it said. As the energy regulator has already made clear, any such debate shouldn’t start from the basis that subsidies for certain units are the answer, the company said.
  • BP Plc said there’s no single solution to resilience concerns that should be imposed by the commission. Strong coordination between the natural gas and electric sectors is the way forward. Market-based solutions that don’t favor any one fuel are the preferred course, it said in a filing.
  • Cargill Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. said efforts to upgrade the nation’s transmission system will lead to a more resilient grid. They were among the signatories of a joint letter urging the commission to streamline planning processes to meet growing demand for renewable energy.