In a rare move, the Trump administration confirmed Friday that it will take "immediate steps" to prevent coal and nuclear power facilities in the US from closing. "President Trump has directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources, and looks forward to his recommendations", White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says in the statement.
The White House-sponsored DoE memo reportedly states that "too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement", while declaring that the replacement of coal and nuclear plants by natural gas and renewable power in the USA is not secure. It is proposed that the Energy Department would apply emergency authority under federal laws in order to navigate grid operators into purchasing power generation from ailing plants.
In exploiting the 1950 Defense Production Act - an obscure Korean War-era energy procurement statute meant to streamline the war effort against Communism, particularly against China - Trump is looking for new ways to keep coal and nuclear power afloat in the USA, even as sustainable and ever-cheaper power generation in the country, including wind and solar, has risen sharply.
According to the draft memo, the Energy Department would exercise its emergency authority to order grid operators to give preference to plants "that have a secure on-site fuel supply" and which "are essential to support the Nation's defense facilities, critical energy infrastructure, and other critical infrastructure".
"Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement", the 41-page memo reads. One independent group that manages the electricity grid that serves more than 65 million people said that it could be bad for consumers if the federal government intervenes in the market.
A representative of the American Wind Energy Association, Amy Farrell, said that the "orderly retirement" of legacy power plants did not create the kind of emergency requiring special action by the Trump administration.
How Trudeau's push for a 'skinny NAFTA' deal hit a Trump wall
Trump tweeted this morning: "Canada has treated our Agricultural business and Farmers very poorly for a very long period of time".
Over dozens of pages, the memo makes the case for action, arguing that the decommissioning of power plants must be managed for national security reasons and that federal intervention is necessary before the USA reaches a tipping point in the loss of essential, secure electric generation resources. Under a 2010 agreement, Portland General Electric plans to shut Oregon's only coal-fired power plant in Boardman in 2020.
There is no environmental argument for keeping open coal plants, which are the most carbon-intensive form of power. NETL went on to conclude that, "In the case of PJM, it can also be shown that the demand could not have been met without coal".
Soon after taking charge, new CIL chairperson Anil Kumar Jha said that the Power Ministry had set a daily supply level to ensure that every thermal power plant was carrying 22 days consumption of coal - the normative stock as laid down in standard operating procedures.
Any attempt to prop up coal and nuclear plants has been opposed by both environmental groups and the natural gas industry.
"Any federal intervention in the market to order customers to buy electricity from specific power plants would be damaging to the markets and therefore costly to consumers", it added.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has written a letter to the Prime Minister, seeking his intervention to ensure that CIL will offer additional railway rakes for the transportation of coal to thermal power plants in the Delhi region, as the Indian capital is facing acute shortage of power as a result of lower coal stock.
Coal company CEO Robert Murray of Murray Energy [MUYEY.UL], also called for Perry to use emergency powers to save at-risk coal plants.