Congress Puts Electric Grid Reliability in the Hot Seat  

For the second time in less than a month, the state of the nation’s electric power system was the focus of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as it met to “Examine the Reliability and Resiliency of Electric Services in the U.S. in Light of Recent Reliability Assessments and Alerts.” Senators did not hold back on the administration’s short-sighted energy policies and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that are targeting dispatchable generation resources at an aggressive rate. Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) characterized the regulatory scheme as “death by a thousand unreasonable cuts,” while Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WYO) called out “reckless policies” and advocated for policies that ensure reliable and affordable energy on the country’s electric grid.

As PJM Interconnection President and CEO Manu Asthana told the Committee, “It is not about the entry of the new intermittent resources. It is about the premature exit of the resources that we need to balance the grid.” Grid operators and energy experts agreed during a hearing where “risk” was cited no less than 51 times.

Watch Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) question witnesses about EPA regulations, early retirements, and the availability of replacements, and read comments from the hearing:

Grid Reliability, Retirements and Trends

“Our assessments demonstrate that the electric grid is operating ever closer to the edge where more frequent and more serious disruptions are increasingly likely.”

“I just want to note the markets have worked… But what is different is that there is this massive policy pressure. It’s really pressure for generators that are dispatchable to retire. And the retirement dates are not tied to demonstration that the replacement capacity is there.”

“First, coal plants are being prematurely retired… The new EPA rules announced two weeks ago will likely lead to more retirements despite the legal challenges that will be filed. Second, there is no technology to deliver around-the-clock base load electricity to replace this retired generation. It has to be tested, proven, financeable, and also connected to the transmission grid by 2028 when all these coal plants are retired. In fact, it's doubtful anything will be ready by about 2035."

Energy Policies and Regulations

“We strongly encourage an approach to policymaking that expressly evaluates reliability impacts in the development phase of policy, not after the fact.”

“… reliability needs to be prioritized in policy decisions made by other executive-branch departments that affect the pace of retirements.”

“This desire to put climate change objectives ahead of reliability in the United States is a risk not worth taking. It’s not too late for you to take action.”