Committee Questions Grid Operators Over Affordability and Reliability Concerns On Heels of Bitter Winter

March 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee leaders wrote this week to several Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) seeking information related to electricity affordability and reliability. This year’s brutally cold winter stressed the electric grid causing electricity prices to spike across the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast and highlighted our nation’s reliability vulnerabilities. Members are concerned these problems will only worsen as more coal plants are scheduled to shut down due to environmental regulations.

In letters to PJM, MISO, NYISO, and ISO-NE, the members wrote, “We are concerned that such outages and price increases could be further exacerbated in the future as ‘coal-fired power plants that utilities have relied on to meet the surge in demand are shuttered for environmental reasons.’ EIA reported in February that the number of coal-fired power plant retirements will be higher than originally anticipated, and that an estimated 60 GW of coal-fired capacity will retire by 2020. Notably, EIA expects ‘90% of the coal-fired capacity retirements [to] occur by 2016, coinciding with the first year of enforcement for the [Environmental Protection Agency’s] Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.’ This means approximately 54 GW of coal-fired generation will retire in the next two years, representing nearly 17.5% of all coal-fired generation in the United States. We are specifically concerned that the loss of these critical generation facilities in such a short timeframe will make it increasingly difficult to meet electricity demands in the future, thereby putting reliability at risk and driving up electricity prices for consumers.”

The committee requested information from each of the RTOs relating to the performance of the grid during this past winter season, as well as affordability and reliability concerns due to plant retirements as a result of EPA regulations. The committee is seeking responses by April 18, 2014.

To read the letter to PJM Interconnection (PJM), click HERE.

To read the letter to Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO), click HERE.

To read the letter to New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), click HERE.

To read the letter to ISO-New England (ISO-NE), click HERE.

The letters were signed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Full committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Energy and Power Subcommittee Vice Chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA).