Clean Power Plan Won’t Kill The Grid, Even If The Wall Street Journal Says It Will

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Those who take the Wall Street Journal for gospel miss a lot of what’s going on with US energy, says Denise Robbins of Media Matters for America. Too bad they probably won’t get it if they stick to that source and ignore all the others.

US power grid on (

The Journal published an editorial two weeks ago that encouraged sedition. It advised all 50 states to boycott national policy and global thinking and “revolt” against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The CPP is one of America’s strongest protections against the harmful reality of climate change, which a majority of Americans now acknowledge as a threat to current ways of life. From the editorial pages of the Journal:

“Virtually everyone who understands the electric grid, from state utility commissions to the regional transmission operators, warns that the EPA’s ambitions threaten reliability. These apolitical organizations think brownouts or cascading blackouts are possible.”

Now, entrenched button-pushers are not the only grid experts in town. Others include the creative engineers and businesspeople who designed the system in the first place. Also, the utility commissions and transmission directors hardly merit the descriptor “apolitical.” Robbins is perhaps too polite to mention these faulty assumptions, but she does call out the newspaper for factual distortions and fearmongering.

First, Robbins asserts that “in reality, nonpartisan energy experts say the EPA’s proposal will not affect Americans’ access to electricity.” She cites two economic consulting firms (the Brattle Group and the Analysis Group), utility commissioners and chairmen from seven of the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, top officials at major electric utilities (Exelon; Calpine Corporation, which owns utilities in 18 states; and Iberdola, owner of utilities that provide electricity for millions of customers on the East Coast.

Robbins also cites Utility Dive’s 2015 State of the Electric Utility survey of 433 electric utility execs. This poll found that most utilities have already planned to make some fuel transitions. Most utility executives do not oppose the Clean Power Plan, Utility Dive says, and over 60% of them either support the Clean Power Plan or want EPA standards that are even stronger. “A whopping 84% of utilities predict that distributed energy resources will also increase as part of their overall fuel mix.”

The Journal also supported its argument with a statement from the New York Independent Systems Operator (the nonprofit responsible for the city’s transmission and power generators) that the EPA’s proposed emissions reductions “cannot be sustained while maintaining reliable electric service.”

Here again, Robbins makes a credible rebuttal. She repeats a comment letter to the EPA last fall from the heads of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, Public Service Commission, and State Energy Research and Development Authority, along with top officials from other RGGI states. These utility authorities note that RGGI has proven that states can apply the core strategies of the Clean Power Plan to substantially reduce carbon emissions while “maintaining grid reliability.”

She also quotes John Moore, Senior Attorney at the National Resources Defense Council:

“[NYISO] misunderstood how the Clean Power Plan works and applied the wrong assumptions to reach its erroneous conclusions. It didn’t assume that New York could be part of a regional trading group to do regional emissions trading. It didn’t take into account new generation…. It was very overly conservative about the potential for new wind and energy efficiency and solar. So in other words, it misapplied the Clean Power Plan requirements to New York State’s grid.”

Moore adds that the CPP doesn’t actually require any single power plant to close. States can develop whatever compliance mechanisms they need, alone or with other states, to protect reliability and make the Clean Power Plan affordable. In its compliance flexibility, the Clean Power Plan protects reliability.

Moore told Robbins in a phone interview two weeks ago:

“Essentially, what we are finding in those grid operator studies that are the more alarmist of the studies, the major issue is that they fail to apply the flexibility of the Clean Power Plan to their modeling in coming up with these types of results.”

He also noted that through its Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, New York is already making a shift towards cleaner energy. In its remarks, the NYISO omitted an important ongoing effort on the state’s part to “promote more efficient use of energy, deeper penetration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, wider deployment of  ‘distributed’ energy resources, such as microgrids, on-site power supplies, and storage.”

Environmental Protection Agency Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe spelled out in a post on the EPA leadership’s official blog the different ways her agency worked to ensure that the Clean Power Plan can be implemented “without interfering with the country’s reliable and affordable supply of electricity.” McCabe noted that “there has never been an instance in which Clean Air Act standards have caused the lights to go out,” and that the EPA took care to incorporate input from the utility sector by crafting a plan that provides utilities with “enough time” and “a wide range of options” to reduce carbon pollution.

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24 thoughts on “Clean Power Plan Won’t Kill The Grid, Even If The Wall Street Journal Says It Will

  • In near-time scale,and from this point forward, advancing technologies not easily suppressed in China/Asia by the American Financial Classes will surpass the 19/20th century “Sunk Money” technologies in the U.S.A. Even as Asian electric bullet trains, maglev trains have vanquished the need for fossil fuel intensive jet engined airplanes for local flights. Electricity is seeing a similar movement, where in many lands outside the U.S.A. Solar Wind Wave Hydro Tidal and Geothermal are advancing aided by new, efficient, Asian manufacturing technologies and new science encompassing electric trains, cars wind turbines, battery/ electric storage systems, fast neutron gas moderated near waste free nuclear systems, LFTR styled technologies for ship propulsion, and yes, even the demise of the “Centralized” power generation plant for a more efficent lower transmission loss lower transmission cost decentralized light network as is preeminent in Germany and other countries today. Also: D.C.H.V. transmission will take its toll on the current 60 hz A.C. systems from the late 18th century and pre – “Solid State device” technologies. The faster the changes the richer the country that develops them and the resistance in America by the corporate “Sunk Money” will hold her back now as many others make better choices based on Science and reality not on profitability for the very few Uber Rich?

    • Take heart that Wall Street just wants to make money and a paper with FF vested interests controlling it won’t change that.

  • Blah blah blah more commie demoncrap BS about the global warming hoax.

    • Well, go hide underneath a rock if you like.

    • yeah, those evil scientists!

  • Push back on the clean power plan is completely analogous to pretty much every major environmental legislation since formation of EPA in 1970. I use the mother and messy child argument to explain the situation. EPA, the mother in this scenario, tells her messy child to clean up his/her room. Messy child in this scenario is industry having to either control pollution from discharges or cleanup existing messes on land and in the groundwater. Mom says clean up your room and obstinate child says no. This continues on and on. Whether mom wins depends on her fortitude. EPA has lost much of its backbone over the past 20 years.

    Now assume messy child is a spoiled rich kid. The messy child kicks and screams. Industry calls up corporate lawyers. The EPA clean power plan is going to court soon. Basically on an obscure issue relating to whether a section of the Clean Air Act Section 111(d).

    This is absolutely not a technology issue. An engineering feasibility issue. Or an economic issue. It’s all comes down to messy child industry doesn’t want to be told what to do. Wall Street Journal is simply flacking for industry here. Frankly, the clean power plan is already gradually being implemented with natural gas replacing coal as the number one generator feed. And with the rise of wind and solar (both large scale and distributed). I’m going to guess that if messy children industry are successful at blocking the clean power plan, the US electricity generating mix will become close to being compliant anyway. Wind and solar is just going nuts. As clean technica folks know.

    • Although in this case the EPA’s plan for most states is, “basically, keep doing what you are doing.” As far as the big scare about closing plants, it is essentially a few that have been considered for closure already, and the addition some of the oldest most, inefficient ones – business as usual for for most states.

      “Robbins also cites Utility Dive’s 2015 State of the Electric Utility survey of 433 electric utility execs. This poll found that most utilities have already planned to make some fuel transitions. Most utility executives do not oppose the Clean Power Plan, Utility Dive says, and over 60% of them either support the Clean Power Plan or want EPA standards that are even stronger.” Nothing new to see here folks, move along on home!

      • I recommend anyone interested in climate change, clean technology, or environmental to read the clean power plant as it’s presented by EPA:

        There’s a plan for existing plants and for newly constructed ones. Like you said, this is a three foot putt for most states.

        Sadly, there’s a lot of really dumb interpretations of the plan going around the internet. Wall Street Journal is simply echoing the analysis put forth by 9th circle of hell think tanks.

        I’ve worked on the business end of regulations. My only complaint about environmental regulations is they’re too long. For instance, the regulation I linked above, it took me about six hours of scrolling time to get to the golden nugget of information, that’s the table for emissions requirements assigned to each state. Coal states like North Dakota and Kentucky have emissions limits just roughly below emissions of coal plants in pounds carbon per megawatt hour of generation.

        So basically all these whining little [jerks] are whining for nothing. Read the regs kidz.

    • Waaaayy back when CA was first having hearings on clean air laws all the VPs and execs of cos testified how making their cos clean up would kill jobs, and cause massive bankruptcies etc., etc. But then after their testimony, these same guys would come around quietly in the halls at break time and tell the govt. people “Look, I have to testify like this or I’d lose my job, but I live here too, and these laws are the only thing that will help me and my kid’s breathe so just pass these laws.”

      Kabuki isn’t just Japanese theater.

  • The only thing interfering with reliability and profitability is obsolete coal and nuclear.

  • 1) Put a proper price on pollution
    2) break up the vertical utilities
    3) put the grid into public hands
    4) let free markets rule power production and retail
    5) watch head-in-the-sand utilities crumble and innovative clean power production florish.

    • You forgot strict oversight and regulations for energy companies.

      Was Deepwater Horizon really that long ago?

      • Why should energy companies be an exception?

  • The WSJ editorial page has been hard-right propaganda since even before Murdoch. Just greedy old people rationalizing their greed.

      • Got curious and took a look, it is kind of funny that he feels free to espouse his religion of free market capitalism while knocking the religion of environmentalism. After all what isn’t free market about someone choosing to disinvest? Oh well what else can you expect from someone who admits that they are part of Faux News right in their bio, someday these old guard dinosaurs will be gone.

      • Idiotic? George Will?

        Say it ain’t so!

  • I’ll state it once again: South Austalia went from next to no renewable energy to generatng electricity equal to 40% of total consumption within 10 years with no increase in ancillary services (spinning reserve) and no disruption in electricity supply. It used to be that we would expect newspapers to fact check and the idiot down at the pub to speak nonsense, but the idiot down at the pub now has a smart phone and does a better job of fact checking than many of our newspapers. And they are no longer newspapers. We should call them what they are – right wing political blogs with a hard copy printed out for old people who aren’t comfortable readng stuff off screens.

    • The only people who read the WSJ op-eds are right-wing execs who get it for free from their co. My local paper has shrunk from a fairly thick daily with a lot of news and op-eds to a page or two of news and a bunch of ads for supermarket openings. The web is replacing newspapers like Skype is replacing a lot of business travel.

    • In addition, Germany and Denmark have one of the most stable grids: link.


      Germany powers France in cold despite nuclear u-turn
      While France was struggling with high demand, Germany, which houses 37 percent of the world’s solar plants, relied on its growing renewable energy output and resurrected idled coal-fired plants to cover a rise in electricity demand

      Besides, while Germany is generating record trade-surpluses (which has heavily invested in renewable energies in the last decade), France is struggling with record unemployment rates.

      • The more wind and solar on a grid, the more reliable it tends to be. A single mechanical failure on a wind farm will at a realistic worst take out one wind turbine. At a coal power station it could cause the whole plant to go offline.

  • The Wall street journal is a curious publication. Even if you are a right winger, if you actually followed the WSJ advice you will make some bad investments. So maybe it is just right wing spirit talk, it just feels good, but nobody actually puts their money into dying dinosaurs.

  • The gas grid owner of Belgium stops all further extensions of the gas grid.
    Despite connecting an extra 34,000 clients last year they sold 15% less gas.
    Eandis says that the investments to increase the gas grid done in the last 10 years were a bad investment, a waste of money.
    Eandis is owned by the communities, a municipal utility.
    Only a massive turn to gas-powered vehicles could save the grid.

    Eandis blames the falling sales to: increased insulation, better gas boilers, pellet boilers and heat pumps. Combined heat and power (district heating) will be another nail into the coffin.

    The introduction of the electric vehicle might save the power grid. MIGHT !


    No, I’m not a WSJ reader 🙂

  • The Murdoch Business model: Cash for Propaganda.
    Just like the Cigarette Industry: Cash for Your Slow Death, in a Cancer Ward.
    Just like Fracking: Cash for your death from cancer or a respiratory illness.

    There is a Free Lunch for the Corporate Criminal.
    What ever it takes to kill humans and Republicans to feed the greed of the 1%.
    Because the 99% Republican is the Most Gullible Sheep in the Flock.

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