Reliable Baseload Coal and the Need for Fuel Diversity Top Discussion at Faegre Baker Daniels Energy and Environment Symposium

A reliable electric grid is critical to the public health and safety of all Americans.  No matter the fuel source, a functioning, reliable and resilient grid is what maintains a steady flow of power for homes and businesses across the country.  Baseload generation, like coal with onsite storage (an 85-day stockpile of coal), as well as using a diverse fuel mix, are vital to this reliability.

This week, industry experts expressed their agreement on these points at the Faegre Baker Daniels Energy and Environment Symposium in Washington, D.C. in which EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gave the keynote speech.

Administrator Pruitt articulated the importance of baseload fuel sources, like coal, for grid reliability. According to Pruitt, when natural gas infrastructure is threatened, energy from sources like coal – that are stored on-site – provide the needed baseload power. Pruitt also cautioned against over-reliance on a single fuel source, saying it is “unwise” to move aggressively away from fossil fuels because grid reliability depends on a diverse energy portfolio.

Following Administrator Pruitt’s speech, I moderated a panel of industry leaders. Their comments largely focused on the need for fuel source diversity:

Tony Clark, Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner (FERC) stated:

“Renewables are great, but even they admit that intermittency is an issue. Sometimes they’re not there when you really need them. There have to be economic incentives for those resources to be around. There isn’t any one perfect resource, but from a policy perspective I’ve felt diversity is key.”

David Boyd, VP of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) said:

“At the end of the day we use all these fuels, diversity is a great thing. […] There is a lot to be said about ability of baseload plants and baseload fuels to help our infrastructure.”

John Shelk, Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA) stated:

“We’ve tended to favor a fuel neutral approach. Rather than saying which one has an advantage—what attributes do we need to be reliable?”

Tom Coleman, Director of Reliability Assessment at North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) said:

“We evaluate resource and transmission adequacy; the next concept is resiliency. We can be resource adequate but perhaps not resilience adequate. We’re concerned about frequency response, which we’ve seen in baseload generation. Renewable is also capable but we’re looking forward to seeing what will happen from a resiliency standpoint. Our comfort level is certainly with traditional baseload resources that support grid reliability and resilience.”

Mike Bryson, VP Operations at PJM Interconnection said:

“The CPP was completely unnecessary for PJM region…It’s really hard to rip out the economics of it, natural gas and shale areas, places where the gas is actually free and they’re building huge plants on those wells. It’s really hard to compete with that.”

ACCCE understands the importance of well-functioning electricity markets. We are proud to be a part of the dialogue to provide solutions that maintain a diverse portfolio of generation sources and properly value the resilience benefits of baseload coal generation. Our goal is to ensure a reliable, resilient, and diverse electric grid which is important for both public health and American economic prosperity.