Critics of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan have long claimed that by forcing existing carbon-emitting generation offline in such a short timespan, the EPA will threaten grid reliability and lead to higher prices for consumers.
A new study prepared by The Brattle Group, a consulting firm for utilities and grid operators, however, concluded that the Plan is unlikely to harm grid reliability due to its allowances for sufficient alternatives to make up for any shortfalls in generation capacity.
"The NERC claimed that New York, the Midwest and Texas were already facing depleted reserve margins."
The NERC's concerns about carbon rules' threat to grid reliability Last November, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. issued a press release the stated the electric supply industry needed a longer timeframe to find a way to comply with the CPP's carbon rules while maintaining the current level of reliability.
"The bulk power system is undergoing a fundamental transformation toward increasing dependency on natural gas, wind and solar resources. The Clean Power Plan substantially accelerates that shift and proposes a very different mix of power resources than we have today," said Gerry Cauley, president and chief executive officer at the NERC, in the November 2014 release.
Because the new mix of resources generators would have to accommodate are so different from the existing resources, Cauley stated that more time was needed to accurately assess how the transition could be made without causing a generation shortfall.
The NERC claimed that New York, the Midwest and Texas were already facing depleted reserve margins because the limited capacity additions did not adequately replace the resources lost in widespread power plant retirement. The release concluded that "since 2011, more than 30 GW of conventional fossil-fueled generation has been retired, primarily due to existing environmental policies and low natural gas prices."
New study claims EPA's Clean Power Plan poses no threat to reliability In a study commissioned by Advanced Energy Economy Institute, The Brattle Group performed an analysis of the NERC's concerns and found them to be lacking.
"We find that the concerns raised by NERC about potential reliability issues arising from compliance with proposed carbon emissions standards are largely overstated," Jurgen Weiss, senior researcher and lead author of The Brattle Group report, said in a press release. "In its initial reliability review, NERC raised several concerns about the feasibility of achieving emissions standards with the technologies used to set the standards, but NERC did not address several mitigating factors."
"The Brattle Group performed an analysis of the NERC's concerns and found them to be lacking."
Specifically, the AEEI and Brattle Group noted that ongoing investments in a more complete natural gas infrastructure as well as evidence that high levels of variable renewable sources can be managed were among the key reasons why the NERC's complaints were overblown.
The Brattle Group also explained that the NERC study did not account for new operational and technological tools that would help grid operators reduce emissions while upholding reliability standards. The group also pointed out that there is flexibility available for compliance with the CPP, as well as the ability for states and regions to customize their plans to be more in line with their individual circumstances.
"We believe that advanced energy technologies, put to work by policies and market rules that we see in action today, will increase the reliability and resiliency of the electric power system, not reduce it. This report from The Brattle Group confirms that the Clean Power Plan can be implemented without reliability concerns," said Malcolm Woolf, Senior Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs for the Advanced Energy Economy Institute.
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