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Reliability, Resilience and the Oncoming Wave of Retiring Baseload Units 

03-28-2018 12:16

National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)


This study examines power plant performance at elevated demand requirements during the explosive  cyclogenesis cold weather event, now known as the “Bomb Cyclone (BC),” the winter storm that highlighted a period of deep freeze blanketing much of the eastern half of the United States from December 27, 2017, through January 8, 2018. Fossil fuels, particularly coal, responded to the system’s needs during this event (Exhibit ES-1).

During the worst of the storm from January 5-6, 2018, actual U.S. electricity market  experience demonstrated that without the resilience of coal- and fuel oil/dual-firing plants—its ability to add 24-hour baseload capacity—the eastern United States would have suffered severe electricity shortages, likely leading to widespread blackouts. Experience with such blackouts indicates the potentially enormous toll in both economic losses and human suffering associated with widespread lack of electricity, utilized as the primary home heating source for nearly 40 percent of U.S. households, and necessary for running the electric fans of natural gas furnaces, for extended periods. [2] The need for reasonable compensation to maintain resilient capacity to endure such periodically-certain threats to the nation formed the basis of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) resilience compensation proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). [3] Markets do not currently compensate resilience, and thus that capability is steadily diminishing due to competitive pressures of ongoing, baseload power plant early retirements.


National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)
Peter Balash, Ken Kern, John Brewer, Justin Adder, Christopher Nichols, Gavin Pickenpaugh, and Erik Shuster


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