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Coal Advocates Warn The US Grid Is Growing More Vulnerable

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) released a white paper Wednesday warning of the U.S. electric grid’s growing instability as coal plants are phased out.

The coal industry has suffered years of decline and coal plants in the U.S. are struggling to stay open. The industry’s waning is causing downstream effects to workers who must find new jobs and miners’ families pensions that are in danger of going unfunded.

The ACCCE white paper, titled “The Value of Coal and the Nation’s Coal Fleet,” argues for the value coal power provides to the grid. Along with nuclear energy, coal is the most reliable baseload energy, the paper says. Both coal and nuclear energy are in decline.

“This grid that produces and delivers electricity to consumers is undergoing profound changes that include the retirement of baseload sources of electricity, as well as increasing reliance on natural gas and renewable energy sources (mostly wind and solar),” the paper says.

“These changes can affect — even impair —the reliability and resilience of the grid and, therefore, create challenges for electricity generators; state public utility commissions; independent system operators and regional transmission organizations; the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the U.S. Department of Energy; the North American Electric Reliability Corporation; and others with a stake in ensuring the grid is able to produce and deliver affordable electricity 24/7,” the paper continued.

Natural gas is the leading cause of the downfall of coal as the United States’ chief source of energy. Coal has bounced back slightly since the election of President Donald Trump and implementation of his fossil fuel-friendly energy agenda.

The main coal producing regions in the United States all increased production from 2016 to 2017, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. West Virginia’s coal production increased by 10 percent, Pennsylvania’s production increased by 6.8 percent and Eastern Kentucky’s production increased 8.4 percent.

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