You might not have noticed this, with all the pitchforks out for SCANA in South Carolina, but the U.S. Department of Energy is making the same mistake that South Carolina lawmakers made 10 years ago. Currently, it’s actively trying to bail out old, legacy, nuclear plants at the expense of cleaner, more efficient renewable energy at an estimated $10 billion cost to the American taxpayer.
Just say NOPE-R to coal and nuclear subsidies
Two months ago, Energy Secretary Rick Perry did something that none of his predecessors have done before: he instructed an independent federal agency — one with a proud tradition of ensuring that U.S. energy markets remain competitive — to distort those markets in order to subsidize decades-old coal and nuclear power plants which have struggled to compete in today's new energy economy.
This directive from Secretary Perry — formally known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NOPR — is almost as big a giveaway to the coal and nuclear industries as South Carolina's 2007 Base Load Review Act was to SCANA. Ask any South Carolinian how that turned out — a giant hole in the ground and $5 billion in debt.
Keep U.S. energy markets competitive
Energy markets (Figure 1) are monitored by a 5-member independent agency called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC and the energy markets it oversees are only a few decades old. Within that time, these markets have expanded across the country as competition has driven down costs, improved system reliability, grown our clean energy economy, and sprouted seven distinct energy markets to the mix. Today, 31 states — comprising over $13.5 trillion in GDP — are benefitting from the free and fair competition that these energy markets provide.
Figure 1. US Competitive Energy Markets (Credit: ISO/RTO Council)
Stay strong, stay independent, stay competitive
Competition makes everyone stronger. Distorting these markets not only drives costs up but drives entrepreneurship out. Secretary Perry should understand how much clean energy has improved the American energy system. After all, his home state of Texas is the largest renewable energy producer in the country.