The Trump administration is planning to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants, which face shutdowns due to competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy, according to a draft memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The memo argues that the directive, which would be carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy using emergency authority, is justified for national security reasons.
“Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement,” only to be replaced by less-secure, less-resilient natural gas and renewable power sources, said the memo, circulated ahead of a National Security Council meeting today. Coal-fired and nuclear plants, on the other hand, have fuel on site, which it argues means they are capable of quickly coming back online after extreme weather and emergencies.
Under the proposal, the Department of Energy would instruct grid operators where they could buy power for two years while the government studies vulnerabilities in the U.S. energy system. The memo also provides a list of designated facilities “to forestall any future actions toward retirement, decommissioning, or de-activity.”
If carried out, the directive would “represent an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets,” wrote Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Dlouhy.