Trump bailout wont protect electricity grid, say experts

Jun 6, 2018
Posted by Patrick Haddad

Energy experts decried President Donald Trump’s order to the Energy Department last week to prop up struggling coal and nuclear power plants, saying it would not help achieve energy security.

Trump cited national security and defence concerns caused by the “rapid depletion of a critical part of our nations energy mix” in directing Energy Secretary Rick Perry “to prepare immediate steps to stop the loss of these resources”.

According to the administration, coal and nuclear plants are “fuel-secure”, due to their ability to store fuel supplies on site, rather than natural gas, which relies on pipelines.

Energy experts dispute the proposal, saying that a dispersed electric grid, where there is a diverse array of renewable energy sources, is more secure. Dispersed grids are seen as being much more resistant to attack or accident than one that depends on fewer, larger, centralised power sources such as coal or nuclear.

The greatest threat to America’s electric grid is not considered to be an attack or incident taking down a power plant but instead a disruption of the distribution network: the transformers, substations, and transmission lines that deliver electricity from power plants to residential and commercial properties.

“Most of the outages occur on the distribution system, which has nothing to do with the power plants connected to the system”, says John Larsen, director in the energy and climate practice at Rhodium Group, a research group.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected Trump’s first proposal back in January, when its chief Richard Glick, himself a Trump appointee, wrote: “if a threat to grid resilience exists, the threat lies mostly with the transmission and distribution systems, where virtually all significant disruptions occur.”

According to David Bookbinder, chief counsel at the Niskanen Center, a decentralised grid using renewables provides a better option for America’s energy needs:

“Residential solar is the single most secure form of power we have in the United States: It’s secure both from a fuel supply side – no one’s blocking the sun – and a distribution side: it goes from the roof into your house, so there’s no problem with the transmission. That is a secure energy supply.”

Source: US News

Photo (for illustrative purposes): Donald Trump rally in Harrisburg/Office of the President of the United States/Wikimedia/Public Domain


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