WASHINGTON, May 13, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- In concert with energy expert Daniel Yergin, several electric utility executives warned today that flawed electricity markets still are not recognizing the value of baseload power sources such as nuclear and coal as "the backbone of the electricity grid."
During a panel discussion at the Nuclear Energy Institute's annual conference, the executives said markets and regulators are imperiling energy diversity by favoring newer energy technologies but ignoring their shortcomings.
"The future will see more distributed generation and renewables, but you need to have a stable grid to support it, and that comes from baseload like nuclear and coal," Nicholas Akins, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power said. "It's very disturbing to see regulatory actions like the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's] Clean Power Plan not paying enough attention to the resources that actively support the grid."
Christopher Crane, president and CEO of Exelon Corp. and chairman of NEI, said utility models of the past must be adjusted to account for changing conditions and be more "nimble and innovative" to better serve customers.
"But we also need fair treatment of the investments we've made as we will spend billions on generation facilities," said Crane, who earlier in the day apprised the conference's 860 attendees of the state of the U.S. nuclear energy industry.
Yergin, vice chairman of the IHS information and analytics firm and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, led the panel discussion. He identified regional market deficiencies as among the challenges facing many nuclear energy facilities, despite the technology's proven ability to reliably generate large amounts of electricity.
Nuclear energy facilities operating in 30 states provide 19 percent of total U.S. electricity supplies, including 63 percent of the electricity generated by carbon-free sources.
William Mohl, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, cited the Northeast as a region where markets are "competitive" in name only.
"States are picking winners and losers and not properly valuing the attributes of all generation," Mohl said. "There's a lack of vision on behalf of the independent service operators with consequences on reliability, prices and environmental goals unmet."
Donald Brandt, chairman, president and CEO of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. and NEI vice chairman, said peak demand can be shifted with batteries coupled with solar panels. But he pointed out that subsidies for solar can have a perverse effect on markets. A prime example is California paying energy companies outside the state to take its solar-generated power at some periods of the day.
"Something is not right with that model," Brandt said.
The utility executives warned that, once a nuclear energy facility closes—as happened in Wisconsin and Vermont over the past two years despite the plants' excellent operating performance—the decision is not reversible.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.
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Source:Nuclear Energy Institute