The resulting 187-page report suggests that coal plant closures are a direct result of market pressure spurred by "federal and state policy interventions and the massive economic shift in the relative economics of natural gas compared to other fuels". It also calls for changes to how wholesale electricity is traded and easier permitting for resources such as coal, nuclear and hydropower.
The long-anticipated study could rankle renewable energy advocates who fear the administration of President Donald Trump will undermine government support for the wind and solar industries as part of its broader drive to revive the ailing coal sector. "Propping up a dirty energy system of the past at the expense of renewables makes the nation's energy grid more polluting and American families less secure". By contrast, the final report cautions that "market designs may be inadequate" to keep "traditional" power generation online.
Hundreds of coal power plants, and many nuclear reactors, have closed in recent years, as electric utilities turn to cheap natural gas, as well as to wind and solar. Policies favoring solar and wind energy have also played a role, the study shows.
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Obama had introduced a raft of regulations meant to slash emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for climate change, a policy course that accelerated the retirement of older coal-fired power plants and bolstered the nascent solar and wind sectors, which depend heavily on weather conditions for their power output.
The American Petroleum Institute noted that natural gas is now the source of more electricity in the USA than any other fuel and has cut consumers' energy costs "without government mandates and subsidies". Federal tax credits and dozens of other federal and state policies have masked the true cost of these intermittent sources of electricity.
Several key recommendations are directed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including the need to review whether electricity markets are delivering secure and resilient electric power as change disrupts grid networks. Without action to enhance revenue (such as zero-emission credit programs) in NY and IL, more nuclear plants will face retirement before the end of their operating licenses in the future.