Renewables Lack Capacity to replace a 20% shutdown of coal electric plants in 2015

The Energy and National Resource Committee (E&NR) met on 4-10-2014. The purpose for a portion of the meeting was to educate key U.S. Senators on the future reliability of our electric grid. Testimony was given by top officials representing some of our largest utility companies including American Electric Power and Calpine. Mr. Jim Hunter, Utilities Director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers reported that a possible grid shutdown in the future is more likely now than all of his previous 40 years of utility experience. After a 20% reduction of coal plant electric power,there was overall concern that another 2014 winter, or an extremely hot summer like 1988, could overload our remaining electric plant capacity and cause electric outages for a large number of users.
Some reasons for the concern are summarized below.
1. Because of EPA regulations, 20% of our coal fired electric plants will be shutdown by mid 2015. If EPA regulations are allowed to continue another 20% of the remaining coal fired plants could be shutdown in the near future.
2.Renewable tax credits threaten the reliability of the grid. As renewables increase, grid stability becomes problematic. Renewables do not have the ability to provide baseline electric power. They do not have sufficient capacity to replace the 20% of coal fired plants that will be shutdown in 2015.
3. Work is progressing to replace the coal fired plants with natural gas fired electric power plants. Mr. Nicholas Akins, president of American Electric Power questioned the reliability of his gas suppliers. If his company loses all or a portion of their gas supply, they will be unable to provide the electricity on demand. Mr. Akins was also concerned about the potential fluctuations of natural gas prices and the effect on electricity consumers.
Two recommendations were given to prevent a future national electricity power outage.
1.It was recommended that the DOE, the EPA and key utility companies meet together for the purpose of establishing a viable energy policy.
2.It was recommended that the government stop selecting energy sources that are their circle of winners and stop classifying those outside of their circle as losers.

References:

1. C-SPAN coverage of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee meeting, chaired by Sen. Mary Landrieu,(LA) April 10, 2014.