EPSA President and CEO testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials on June 6, 2023. Credit: Energy and Commerce GOP.
EPSA President and CEO Todd Snitchler testified Tuesday in front of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials. The hearing focused on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed greenhouse gas emissions standards for the power sector, and also took time to address reliable energy delivery. Other witnesses included industry experts: Patrick O’Loughlin, President and CEO, Buckeye Power Inc. and Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives; Michael J. Nasi, Partner, Jackson Walker; and Jay Duffy, Litigation Director, Clean Air Task Force.
The proposed EPA rule would impose extremely strict emission limits for carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel-fired power plants, requiring plants to either curb production, or install yet-to-be-deployed technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) or green hydrogen blending on a massive scale.
In his testimony, Snitchler highlighted that these rules may be almost impossible to meet for most plants, forcing them to curb production even at a time when power demand is rising. He noted that this new rule will accelerate the already troubling pace of premature retirement for dispatchable resources like natural gas. Snitchler explained:
“The accumulated effect of many policies, including the EPA’s recent proposed carbon emissions rule, is likely to result in the premature retirement or reduced availability/capacity factor of a significant number of flexible, dispatchable resources (like natural gas resources) without a readily available replacement that can ensure grid reliability.”
Snitchler identified the growing needs of the grid as a “both-and” situation, not an “either-or,” that will require significant amounts of dispatchable resources like gas to support growing renewables deployment.
“As the resource mix changes, it’s not a one for one replacement. If you add 10,000 megawatts of wind or solar, you still need to have 1,000 megawatts or more of natural gas-fired resources in order to back them up when they don’t operate. And so, they work symbiotically, and they are required to work together.”
Snitchler also reiterated the need to dispel myths that the electric grid can run with only weather dependent, non-dispatchable resources.
During the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, Snitchler was asked about the influence that this kind of rule might have on planning and investment for desperately needed energy infrastructure. Snitchler responded:
“If you’re looking at making a 20- or 30-year investment in infrastructure to a power plant, you’re not going to make a 20-year or 30-year investment on a 10-year time horizon. So, you elect not to make that investment. The challenge becomes, as we look at this energy expansion as I noted before with electrification increased load, you’re going to need more resources, not less.”
Snitchler later received a question inquiring about alternative energy resources should retirements of resources such as natural gas continue. These alternative options include common emerging technologies such as small modular reactors, CCS, and hydrogen co-firing. CCS and hydrogen co-firing or “blending” would be essential to comply with the EPA’s new rule, but neither technology has ever performed in a commercial power plant at scale. CCS is not currently deployed at any commercial power plants in the U.S. Meanwhile, green hydrogen, or hydrogen produced from renewable resources in accordance with the EPA’s rule, is not a commercially available product today. Snitchler provided a frank assessment:
“You can’t plan your grid around hope. . . all [these technologies] are great on the drawing board, but they’re not commercially available today, and if we want to meet those aggressive timelines you have to have technology that can be deployable now.”
With assets across the energy generation spectrum including natural gas, nuclear, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, and battery storage, EPSA understands the unique benefits and challenges of each individual resource. EPSA is dedicated to supporting the expansion of cost-effective clean energy, while also maintaining reliability. But the proposed EPA rule will lead to the retirement of crucial dispatchable energy sources at the wrong time, creating a situation wherein non-dispatchable resources will not have the support they need to further the energy transition safely.