The administration is planning to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life, a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets. Lower-cost renewables including solar and wind, as well as and gas-fired generators, would be bumped off the grid in favor of more expensive coal plants.
The reasoning given for this order is in the name of a national security “emergency.” According to the plan, the Energy Department would exercise emergency authority under a pair of outdated federal laws to direct the operators to purchase electricity or electric generation capacity from coal power plants. One of these laws, the Defense Production Act of 1950, would be enacted as a drastic national-security measure to be deployed in time of war. The administration claims that coal plants are necessary to prevent blackouts on the grid — a claim nearly all experts say is untrue.
A fast-moving transition away from coal is enveloping the American electricity industry, and utility executives themselves have acknowledged and embraced this reality. At a recent U.S. Senate hearing, one member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the bailout of coal plants could cost up to $65 billion, or about $500 more per year for the average person who pays an electric bill. Burning coal poses dire health risks and is linked to tens of thousands of deaths each year. A large group of industry associations that represent energy-efficiency and storage businesses, natural gas, solar and wind generators condemned Trump’s plan.
NYLCV will continue to advocate for ending the use of coal in New York and across the country.