NERC says EPA plan raises reliability concerns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIncreased dependence on natural gas and renewable energy ­generation carry significant new infrastructure requirements. New wind and solar energy to meet the shortfall from fossil ­generation shutdowns under the proposed ne EPA regulation will demand ­additional transmission lines, like those in this photo, to access ­renewable resources in remote areas. New transmission lines for ­renewable energy and pipelines for natural gas will likely be opposed in many areas.

Electric cooperatives are not alone when it comes to worrying about how the EPA’s carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants might hamstring grid reliability. The reliability watchdog for the North American electric grid harbors similar concerns.

In its first assessment of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) outlined several ­reliability-related issues for the agency, state regulators, regional transmission organizations and utilities to consider.

NERC also identified several reliability challenges posed by the ­proposed rule that would shift the nation’s energy portfolio away from coal generation. The proposed rule is expected to be finalized by June 2015.

NERC “rightly questions a greater reliance on natural gas ­generation, unrealistic improvements to existing plants and a lack of infrastructure to support expanded renewable energy transmission,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson.

“Developing suitable replacement generation resources to maintain adequate reserve margin levels may represent a significant reliability challenge, given the constrained time period for implementation,” according to a NERC report.