U.S. Department of Energy asked to intervene to keep coal plants open.

By Morgan Pitts 04/20/2018

FirstEnergy, a midwestern operator of power plants, has made an appeal to the U.S. Department of Energy under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act (FPA) to mandate the operation of its coal and nuclear power plants on the PJM Interconnection.

Section 202(c) allows energy generators to charge higher rates for electricity during emergencies in order to ensure that the public has reliable access to power. While requests under this section of the FPA are uncommon (there have been only 8 since 2000), when they do occur they are generally in the wake of natural disasters or other major service interruptions.

FirstEnergy is seeking this action because, in short, coal and nuclear are no longer competitive with natural gas and renewable energy. The company makes the claim that the unprofitability, and the associated risk of closure, of these assets threatens reliability on the PJM Interconnection. However, the CEO of PJM disagrees saying that thanks to new natural gas, there is no immediate danger of power outages. He goes on to state “We have more power generation capability than we need. In fact, 10 percent more.”

For more information on this topic, check out this article in Utility Dive.