Drastically reducing carbon emissions through fuel switching could prove detrimental to the effectiveness of North America's transmission infrastructure, this according to a new report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).
In "The Electric Industry Concerns on the Reliability Impacts of Climate Change Initiatives," the argument is made that switching from coal-fired power plants to natural gas in a short amount of time could drastically affect the integrity of the bulk power system, and thus the reliability across the entire continent.
"What this study correctly suggests is that reducing the use of coal-fired power plants as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could significantly reduce the reliability of North America's electricity supply system," said Joe Lucas, vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). "To protect reliability and increase energy independence, we need to invest in technology that will allow us to continue using our most abundant energy resources."
The study notes that the current transmission infrastructure is ill-equipped to deliver ample power from renewable energy sources to demand centers.
"Renewable solutions such as wind, solar and hydro-electricity will be an integral part of our energy supply going forward," Lucas said. "However, most renewable resources will be used to complement base-load fuel resources like coal, not as a substitute."
The report also notes that without national climate change policy, our country's climate objectives and reliability are being negatively affected.
"Our industry supports a mandatory program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," continued Lucas, "and we believe that we can have a program to reduce emissions, protect reliability and energy security, and ensure access to affordable energy for American consumers. The key to achieving all of these goals is technology."