Cleaner Electricity Will Be More Reliable, NRDC Expert Says

WASHINGTON (February 19, 2015)—The Obama administration’s plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants is “an opportunity to both reduce air pollution and to build a more reliable, modern energy system,” an expert for the Natural Resources Defense Council says.

The administration’s Clean Power Plan will pose no risks to the reliability of the electric grid, contrary to some industry allegations, according to John Moore, a senior attorney with NRDC’s Sustainable FERC Project. He made the comments in prepared testimony for a technical conference today on grid reliability at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington.

The Clean Power Plan (CPP), proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency last year and due to be finalized this summer, would cut the climate-altering carbon pollution from power plants by 26 percent in 2020 and 30 percent in 2030, compared to 2005 levels.  It would set flexible, state-by-state pollution reduction goals, and allow a variety of means to achieve the pollution cuts, including more use of renewable energy like wind and solar, and programs to cut electricity waste.

While the coal industry has charged that the plan would lead to blackouts and outages, Moore says such fears are unfounded. “The CPP will not create unusual or unique challenges for grid operators,” he says, citing the plan’s flexibility and its decade-long period to comply with the final standards. “Experience shows that the system is capable of accommodating a range of environmental standards and requirements while maintaining reliability.”

“There is more renewable energy flowing through the power grid today than ever before. At times wind has supplied more than 60 percent of the electricity on some utility systems without reliability problems,” he notes in his testimony. “Solar power now routinely contributes 10 to 15 percent of the midday electricity demand in California.”

He says that the CPP contains a number of flexible provisions to cope with any potential reliability problems. Further, if a state still runs into difficulty meeting the targets, EPA has the authority to adjust the state’s compliance timetable.

Moore also notes that the EPA’s plan has set modest goals path consistent with most states’ current plans to shift toward cleaner power. “The electric system is already in the process of transitioning towards more natural gas and renewable generation,” he says. “Economic pressures from falling natural gas prices, new environmental standards and other factors have resulted in a decrease in coal generation from 49 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2013, while maintaining the reliability of the grid.”

Moore says the states, utilities and grid operators must engage in a timely and thorough planning process to ensure a smooth adjustment. He encouraged states to use the option they have under the EPA plan to employ regional pollution-cutting strategies, which could lower the cost while maintaining reliability.

A copy of John’s full testimony is available here:,%20Sustainable%20FERC%20Project.pdf

See John’s earlier blog about the independent Brattle report on reliability:

The Sustainable FERC Project is a coalition of environmental and other public interest organizations, housed within NRDC, that is working to expand the deployment of clean energy resources into America’s electricity transmission grid.


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