A new report has been released that estimates the cost of the Trump Administration’s proposed plan to bail out failing coal and nuclear plants across the country. An independent assessment was commissioned by a diverse group of energy industry associations representing natural gas, oil, energy efficiency, storage, grid services, solar, wind and other renewables.
The report was compiled and authored by The Brattle Group, a consultant on utility operations and energy markets, analyzing the cost of providing extra financial support to uncompetitive U.S. power plants. The Group looked at a range of out-of-market payment options to keep the national fleet of coal and nuclear plants available for operation – and not counting the additional cost of actually generating electricity from the facilities.
The report provides the following estimates of direct costs:
- $16.7 billion per year, or roughly $34 billion for two years as proposed, if every coal and nuclear plant in the country were given a uniform ($ per unit of capacity) support at the level of the average financial shortfall experienced by such plants;
- $9.7 billion to $17.2 billion annually, or roughly $20 billion to $34 billion over two years, if only those plants now facing shortfalls were given payments sufficient to cover their operating losses; or
- $20 billion to $35 billion annually, or $40 billion to $70 billion total, if power plant owners were also granted a return on their invested capital in addition to payments for operating shortfalls.
“The magnitude and range of these estimates indicate the significant impact of yet-to-be determined policy design parameters and the uncertainty of the scope and impact of those choices on cost,” the report notes before concluding: “Arresting the retirement of uneconomic generating assets in the current market environment will likely prove quite costly.”
Numerous national business groups, including the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), funded the Brattle Group report, and issued statements on its findings. For the list of organizations and full statement, click here.
“This report sheds light on how costly the Administration’s coal and nuclear bailout could be,” stated Amy Farrell, Senior Vice President for Government and Public Affairs at AWEA. “The $10 to $35 billion this policy would take from American taxpayers to keep failing businesses open each year for the next two years is just the down payment – this misguided bailout would also completely upend the competitive electricity markets that are delivering billions in consumer savings. That’s a steep price to pay in an era of U.S. energy abundance, when independent regulators and grid operators agree that orderly power plant retirements do not constitute an emergency.”
John Hughes, Electricity Consumers Resources Council President and CEO, said: “This report clearly shows that proposals to prop up coal and nuclear resources will needlessly raise the cost of electricity and hamstring U.S. manufacturers to compete in increasingly competitive domestic and international markets. I fear, however, the impact is underestimated and that the actual impact on consumers will be worse.”
“Giving aging power plants that are not needed to keep the lights on $34 billion just to exist – that’s money for nothing,” said Malcolm Woolf, Advanced Energy Economy Senior Vice President of Policy. “It’s too high a price to pay when advanced energy resources and competitive markets can provide the necessary services to keep our grid affordable, reliable, and secure. Independent assessments confirm that these power plants – most of which are decades old – are not needed to ensure reliability or security. We urge the Trump Administration to abandon, and Congress to resist, this exercise in crony capitalism, which comes at the expense of American businesses, families, and economy.”