A U.S. Department of Energy assistant secretary on Feb. 20 denied reports that the agency is considering using its emergency authority to keep financially ailing coal, nuclear or other power plants online.
Bruce Walker, assistant secretary of the Office of Electricity Delivery, pushed back on recent press reports that the agency might use its Federal Power Act Section 202(c) authority to spur emergency funding to keep coal-fired power plants alive in the wake of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's rejection of DOE's proposed rule to provide extra compensation to generators that can keep a 90-day fuel supply on-site.
Under Section 202, DOE can order a power plant to stay online if it is found to be needed to maintain reliability, among other things — an authority the department has used eight times previously. But Walker told reporters on the sidelines of a DOE Electricity Advisory Committee in Virginia that he has heard no talk from other DOE officials about using the authority now. "We would never use a 202 to stave an economic issue. ... It's not designed for that," Walker said.
DOE in 2017 rejected a request by Murray Energy Corp. to use the emergency authority for FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. merchant power plants, which would keep them operating and running on coal produced by Murray's mines. The DOE said the Trump administration is "unified" in its mission to undo the economic damage done to coal but said "the evidence does not warrant the use of this emergency authority."
In February, the DOE split the office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability into two offices: the Office of Electricity Delivery, which would focus on electric grid modernization, and the Office of Cyber Security, Energy Security and Emergency Response. Walker said he did not know when a new assistant secretary over the cyber office would be named.