On August 23, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the agency’s Staff Report to the Secretary on Electric Markets and Reliability along with a cover letter from Secretary Perry. Secretary Perry had asked the staff to prepare the report to provide an analysis of the impacts to the electric grid related to the dynamic changes occurring related to renewable energy, reduced natural gas and early retirements of plants of all types. While coal fueled plants have seen the greatest reduction, even nuclear plants are struggling to remain economic. While some members of the coal energy industry were asking the Administration to place a moratorium on plant closings under the Emergency Powers Act to prevent damage to energy delivery systems, the Administration stated earlier this week that it would not use that approach, and the study seems to confirm that the grid stability is not at a point where extreme measures are warranted. Among the report policy recommendations, EPA is encouraged “to allow coal-fired power plants to improve efficiency and reliability without triggering new regulatory approvals and associated costs…” and “DOE should pursue a targeted R&D portfolio aiming at increasing efficiency.”

Charah supports a policy of incentivizing efficiency gains and stream-lined permitting for modifications to existing fleet units and construction of new High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) plants. While the U.S. leads the world in CO2 emissions reduction within the electricity generation sector, the efficiency gains that can be achieved enhance the reductions.