Analyses of Clean Power Plan’s Reliability Impact Could Fuel Congressional Criticism


Complying with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan could force up to 49 gigawatts of generating capacity to retire, a grid operator said in a recent report that could fuel criticism of the plan at an upcoming House hearing on the rule.

That figure represents the worst case scenario in the PJM Interconnection’s  analysis.

The grid operator, however, which serves Midwestern and Eastern states as well as the District of Columbia, said as little as 14.5 gigawatts of generating capacity could be at risk for retirement.

PJM Interconnection said it plans to use its analysis to guide future upgrades to its transmission networks.

Critics of the EPA’s proposed rule (RIN 2060-AR33), which would set carbon dioxide emissions rates for the power sector in each state, have already seized on the worst case scenario as ammunition to use against the EPA.

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Whitfield’s subcommittee will be examining potential legal and financial impacts of the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan during a March 17 hearing. Witnesses for the hearing have not yet been announced, but the PJM Interconnection analysis could fuel critics who say the EPA’s proposed rule could jeopardize the reliability of the grid while driving up costs for consumers and providing negligible climate benefits.

The PJM Interconnection analysis is only the latest report  that seeks to gauge how the Clean Power Plan would affect grid reliability. The North American Electric Reliability Corp.,  a nonprofit that assures adequate voltage and power reserves to keep the electric grid functioning, said in a November 2014 report that the Clean Power Plan’s compliance deadlines could force power plants to close before new generation can be built, jeopardizing reliability.

That analysis was disputed by the Brattle Group in a separate report prepared for the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. In that Feb. 12 report, the Brattle Group said that the power sector is transitioning from coal to cleaner generation sources and the proposed Clean Power Plan gives states and utilities sufficient flexibility to ensure that reliability will not be a concern.

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