What is “resilience,” and do we need it?
As anyone who has not been on Mars knows, last year, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to craft policies to provide for “resilience” in our generation resource mix. Putting it in critical, national security terms, Secretary Perry wrote:
America’s greatness depends on a reliable, resilient electric grid powered by an “all of the above” mix of generation resources [that] must include traditional baseload generation with on-site fuel storage that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural and man-made disasters. … Our economy, government and national defense all depend on electricity. Therefore, ensuring a reliable and resilient electric supply and corresponding supply chain are vital to national security.2
Framing the issue as “national security” is exactly what’s happening now, with a “leaked” memo from the White House National Security Council arguing for the administration to use the Defense Production Act and authority under Federal Power Act section 202(c) to “temporarily delay retirements of fuel-secure electric generation resources.”3
A few months before Secretary Perry’s letter to FERC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt and President Trump appeared on national television to warn that if coal power continues to decline, the lights could go out.4 Administrator Pruitt went so far as to say that if the share of coal use falls below 30 percent nationally, it could expose the United States to terrorist attacks. “When we’re at less than 30 percent or right at 30 percent today, that creates vulnerabilities to attacks on infrastructure,” Pruitt said.5
Pretty potent rhetoric. Nevertheless, as one of his first acts as FERC Chairman, Kevin McIntyre led the Commission in a 5-0 decision rejecting the Department of Energy’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (DOE NOPR).6 In so doing, FERC reiterated its faith in the organized wholesale markets.7
FERC did, however, simultaneously commence a proceeding to examine the overarching question: What exactly is “resilience,” and do we need it?8 That proceeding is now underway before the Commission in docket AD18-7-000.read more