Thursday, November 16, 2017

Grid operator PJM moves to prop up nuclear and coal

PSEG’s coal-fired Mercer Generation Station, which shut down in June because it could not compete against cheaper gas-fueled power plants. (Clem Murray photo for

Andrew Maykuth reports for

Regional grid operator PJM Interconnection on Wednesday proposed to revise its wholesale electricity markets to prop up prices for beleaguered “baseload” generators such as coal and nuclear plants, which are being forced into retirement by low natural-gas prices.

The proposal aims to send stronger price signals to power generators, PJM said, and also to send a political signal to the Trump administration, which in September launched a much-maligned plan to guarantee profits for coal and nuclear plants.

PJM, based in Valley Forge, said its plan was aimed at preserving competitive markets. But it also noted it would increase regional wholesale electricity costs from 2 percent to 5 percent, or as much as $1.4 billion annually for 65 million people in its territory, which encompasses 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The proposal provides an alternative course for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is considering a “grid resiliency” plan announced in September by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to guarantee cost recovery for power generators that have a 90-day fuel supply on site. The only power plants that can effectively meet that criteria are coal and nuclear power plants.

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