Tipping Points and Taking Action for Grid Resilience

Allowing the other half of our nation’s supply — our coal and nuclear plants — to wither on the vine would be the height of irresponsibility.

But today, that is what is happening.

Between 2002 and April 2018, a total of 672 coal generating units were retired or prematurely closed. Since 2013, six nuclear units have retired prematurely and as of August 2018, 13 more were scheduled for premature retirement.

For too long, government at all levels has overregulated coal and nuclear while subsidizing renewables in ways that have left entire regions of the country increasingly over-reliant on fuels that alone are unable to meet our constant and growing energy needs.

The bottom line is that such actions have taken their toll – none more so than the previous administration’s war on coal. The shame is that, by any rational calculation, this war on us all – from consumers to coal miners – was utterly unnecessary. Coal-fired plants have become dramatically cleaner in recent years, and further progress is sure to follow.

Due in part to DOE’s Clean Coal Technology Program – created as a partnership between government and industry – the country has seen the emergence of state-of-the-art, coal-fired power plants that drastically reduce air pollutants. Between 1970 and 2016, the U.S. coal fleet cut emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and airborne particulates by as much as 93 percent. Today’s technologies can also achieve 90 percent removal of mercury from coal, to levels that are so low, they are nearly undetectable.

And through breakthroughs in carbon capture and utilization techniques, we are finding ways to contain coal emissions and put them to use in science and medicine.

Despite this progress, the heavy hand of government continues to work against both coal and nuclear power in other ways. Wholesale electricity markets are saddled with byzantine rules and regulations that fail to value either fuel for its most essential advantage – reliability.

Coal and nuclear are by far the nation’s most reliable grid fuels. Both deliver baseload energy 24/7, rain or shine, wind or calm. And unlike pipeline-dependent natural gas or renewables, both fuels can be stockpiled on-site for use when they are needed most.