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UPDATE 1-U.S. energy chief urges incentives to help coal, nuke power plants

(Adds reactions from industry groups)

Sept 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has asked federal regulators to provide price incentives to help keep coal and nuclear power plants open, as a way to address "risks" to the resilience of the electrical grid, the Department of Energy said on Friday.

The move drew praise from the coal and nuclear power industries, but raised alarm bells among renewable energy groups and environmentalists concerned that such incentives were unfair and could lead to an increase in pollution.

"The continued closure of traditional baseload power plants calls for a comprehensive strategy for long-term reliability and resilience," Perry said in a Sept. 28 letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

"States and regions are accepting increased risks that could affect the future reliability and resilience of electricity delivery," he wrote.

He asked FERC to issue a rule within 60 days to allow baseload plants that provide nonstop power and maintain at least 90 days of fuel supply on site to fully recover their costs through regulated pricing.

A FERC official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration has previously said the retirement of hundreds of coal-fired power plants and some nuclear reactors in recent years had undermined the ability of the grid to stand up to peak-demand periods, including during severe cold winter weather. It has also criticized wind and solar power, both expanding rapidly, as being too heavily dependent on weather.

Perry commissioned a study in April to evaluate whether "regulatory burdens" imposed by past administrations, including that of former President Barack Obama, had hurt the grid by forcing shutdowns of baseload plants.

That report, released last month, urged that incentives be used to boost coal-fired and nuclear plants, and blamed recent closures on competition with cheaper natural gas and growth of solar and wind power.

Maria Korsnick, head of the Nuclear Energy Institute, praised Perry's request. "In the wake of the incredible disruptions caused by extreme weather events in recent years, including multiple hurricanes and polar vortices, the urgency to act in support of the resiliency of the electric grid has never been clearer," she said.

The American Wind Energy Association blasted the effort, saying it would "upend competitive markets."

"The best way to guarantee a resilient and reliable electric grid is through market-based compensation for performance, not guaranteed payments for some, based on a government-prescribed definition," AWEA spokeswoman Amy Farrell said. (Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Paul Simao)