As nuclear and coal-based plant retirements continue, the Energy Department is growing concerned about the impacts of a "historic shift" in energy resources.
"Today, America's grid is reliable and resilient to disruption because of the diversity and security of fuels that supply it. But the most secure of these fuels are retiring at an alarming rate that if unchecked will threaten our ability to recover from intentional attacks and natural disasters," Undersecretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes told the 2018 EIA Energy Conference earlier this month.
Menezes said a "historic shift away from diverse, fuel-secure resources" is underway.
"We're losing more than grid resiliency. We're losing energy security," Menezes said, adding that President Trump views the development as "a national security issue." To that end, he said Trump has directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "prepare steps to stop the loss of these critical resources."
Jay Morrison, NRECA vice president for regulatory issues, said he agrees with Menezes that existing policy undervalues the benefits of coal and nuclear.
"We've always maintained that the industry, the country and consumers benefit when federal policy embraces an 'all of the above' strategy," said Morrison. He noted that NRECA supports a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision requiring regional transmission operators to evaluate the resilience of their systems and to look at ways to ensure continued resilience as the fuel mix transitions.
Menezes also cautioned that as the U.S. shies away from nuclear power, there will be more at stake than just energy security and grid resilience. The industry "will also lose its technical expertise, its supply chain, and ability to influence international policy."
Under the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, Menezes added, countries wanting to use American nuclear technology must agree to non-proliferation and to limit uranium enrichment to peaceful purposes.
"China has risen as a global power in nuclear engineering and is looking to export its expertise," he said.
"China does not have such a law."