New environmental rules will not cause rolling blackouts or hinder electricity reliability, the Department of Energy said, responding to warnings from owners of impacted coal-fired power plants.

In a 33-page report, the DOE said it had considered ‘stringent’ conditions under which power generators would have to comply with the Environmental Protection Administration’s Cross-State Air Pollution rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as well as other emissions-control measures.

It concluded that even under that stringent scenario, generators in all regions would be able to meet anticipated demand.

“In the stringent test case, taking into account projected capacity additions, DOE found that resources would be sufficient in all regions, even when outages to tie in pollution-control retrofits were incorporated,” the department said.

Warnings Grow In Volume

Its comments came the day after a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hearing in which power company executives warned that the closure or renovation of hundreds of coal-fired plants would increase the chances of power cuts in some areas. Leaders of companies including Southern Company and Dominion Virginia urged the EPA to allow at least four years for the industry to comply with the new regulations.

The timing of the report makes little sense – Segal

The DOE assessment also follows a study by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation which said in late November that the environmental regulations “may reduce reserve margins in ways that could affect bulk power system reliability.”

Poking Holes In The Report

The agency took a selective approach to its reliability assessment, director of utility group the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council Scott Segal said. He said the agency is contradicting its own past statements that EPA regulations will make it hard for the industry to maintain reliability.

“DOE’s new review limited itself only to resource adequacy, which DOE admits is just one component of reliability assessment,” Segal wrote in a response to the DOE paper.

He said the department had not engaged all stakeholders in its assessment, and so had not met the recommendations of its own Electricity Advisory Committee.

Segal said the DOE appears to have released the report to support the EPA which has come under fire from industry for the tough rules and the short lead time for compliance.

“The timing of the report makes little sense,” he wrote in an email. “If DOE was attempting to make a significant contribution to the reliability debate – and not just to support EPA in the 11th hour – it would have made findings well before the rule was already at OMB for final review.”