WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2017 - The Energy Department’s directive to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to issue a rule that helps accurately price electricity generation was intended to spark a conversation on the resiliency and reliability of the country’s electric grid, Energy Secretary Rick Perry told a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.

“The base reason that we asked for FERC to look at this – to act – is that for years this has been kicked down the road,” Perry told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy Subcommittee Oct. 12. The 403 [directive to FERC] that I put forward was a way to kick-start a national discussion about the resiliency and reliability of the grid. … We’re having this conversation now that we really haven’t had in this country.

On Oct. 11, FERC denied the requests for extension of the time to file comments in response to DOE’s proposed rulemaking. Comments on the proposed rule are due on or before Oct. 23 and reply comments are due on or before Nov. 7.Last month, Perry directed FERC to issue a rule requiring electricity markets to develop and implement reforms that would fully compensate generation resources necessary to maintain the grid’s reliability and resiliency. In response, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and Chief Executive Officer Maria Korsnick urged FERC to expeditiously implement DOE’s recommendations, adding that without electricity market reforms, early nuclear plant retirements will likely continue.

In his written testimony, Perry cited an earlier DOE study on how FERC could help ensure the grid’s reliability and resiliency.

“The DOE staff report warns that the continued closure of traditional baseload power plants, especially coal and nuclear, means that ‘states and regions are accepting increased risks that could affect the future reliability and resilience of electricity delivery for consumers in their regions,’” Perry said.

During the hearing, lawmakers pressed Perry about support for advanced and small modular reactor technologies. In answering, Perry drew a bright line between these new technologies and American leadership in nuclear energy.

“One of the reasons we think it’s important to support the nuclear industry today is because we’ve been losing that race,” Perry said. “We don’t want to get to the point where the only people that have the technology and supply chain capability are the Russians, Chinese or Koreans. That’s a concern of mine, that we’re headed in that direction in this country because of the lack of support for the civilian nuclear power industry.”

Energy Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., noted his panel has held seven hearings on the issue. “While I reserve judgement on the policy solutions, the fact that the secretary stepped in to this complicated debate reflects the current need to have a broader conversation about the functioning of the nation’s electricity markets.”

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