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National Policy Needed For Reliable Energy

November 10, 2008

According to the U.S. watchdog for electric reliability, the United States needs a national policy on climate change to help ensure reliable power delivery.

Wind-generated power would be included in such a plan because of the need to smoothly develop a transmission grid backbone that can handle new types of power generation.

“Inadequate attention to the transmission grid will undermine all efforts to address climate change while endangering our electric reliability, and thereby our national security,” said Michael Heyeck, senior vice president for transmission for American Electric Power.

“We are concerned that, when viewed from a continent-wide perspective, current climate initiatives do not adequately address key reliability objectives, particularly the need for a (strong) and robust transmission system,” said Rick Sergel, president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC).

According to a report made by NERC, a wide switch to natural gas plants from coal plants would require major upgrades to transmission grids.

NERC said, “Fuel switching” to natural gas from coal have been under way since 2002.  Since then, more than 30,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation plants have been canceled or deferred.

Reliable power delivery could suffer if the switch from coal to natural gas occurs to quickly without planning.

Concern was expressed by industry players who responded to NERC survey on lowering greenhouse gas emissions at generation plants, saying that if coal plants are retired or not built as once planned, imported natural gas power could cause transmission constrains without adequate federal, state and local planning.

Terry Boston, the CEO and president of the biggest U.S. power grid, PJM Interconnection, said there is a danger that a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse emissions may cause some generators to not run plants in order to sell emission credits.

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