Skip to main content

What's the FERC Technical Conference About and Why Is It So Important?

Here in a Washington that's preoccupied with political spectacle, it can be easy to miss important details about the business of government that really matter. One of those is coming up next week when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) holds a two-day technical conference about electricity markets in the Northeastern U.S. 

Since policymakers in Washington have not been able to find consensus on a comprehensive energy policy for the country, states have shown leadership in trying to ensure that the electricity system of the future will meet their needs. For some time, state governments have adopted renewable portfolio standards (RPS) to spur the growth of wind and solar to meet environmental policy goals. More recently, states like Illinois and New York have enacted similar programs to preserve nuclear power plants, in order to support nuclear energy's unique package of grid stability, zero emissions and fuel supply diversity.

Illinois Future Energy Jobs Bill preserves more than 4,000 jobs

How these state policies are implemented can be complicated as many states participate in competitive electricity markets that are intended to figure out which power plants should run to maintain reliability at a reasonable cost. This conference will help FERC explore the best ways for markets to work in concert with state policies to achieve broader goals. Next week, when all of the stakeholders get together in Washington, the folks at FERC will be listening intently in order to be able to chart a sensible path forward. 

Of particular interest to us are the programs in New York and Illinois that have valued nuclear plants in those states for avoiding emissions. From where we sit, it seems clear that state programs like an RPS or these more recent Clean Energy Standards programs that include nuclear energy are all pursuing the same broad goal of environmental protection. In terms of policy intent, they aren't really different at all, and if you support one, it would be counter-productive not to support them all.

New York Clean Energy Standard saves consumers $1 billion each year

So why is this so important now? When the electric markets were established in this area of the country, grid operators had spent decades planning and making wise investments in order to support both reasonable prices for customers as well as reliable service. Supporting that was a commitment to diversity of fuel supply that kept the lights on and prices stable. 


What's changed is that the arrival of cheap natural gas has forced prices so low that the diversity of supply we've taken for granted is under threat. And when it comes to natural gas, history has told us that what might look like a glut today can evolve into a frightening shortage tomorrow. It's up to staff and leadership at FERC to take a longer-term view and make prudent decisions today to hedge against inevitable risks tomorrow. We'll be paying close attention to the conversation next week and in the months to follow. You should too.

The above is a post from Matt Crozat, senior director of business policy at NEI.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…