The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission held the first of four technical conferences on the Clean Power Plan today in Washington, DC. Electric reliability was a major topic of discussion. Surprise, surprise, two competing studies were released this week on the subject. Can they be reconciled? It seems doubtful, and perhaps a waste of time to try.

The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council published a study showing serious grid reliability challenges if the regulations are implemented as proposed. The American Public Power Association President and the National Rural Electric Cooperative both expressed to the FERC concerns about reliability. The Analysis Group looked at the rule and reached a different conclusion, finding that the rule allows for enough state flexibility to keep the power flowing. Which is it? Will the grid survive because states control implementation, or will it collapse under the weight of shuttered coal fired power plants?

Both reports rely on models and assumptions based on the understanding the respective authors have of the EPA’s proposed regulations. Neither set of authors have crystal balls to predict the final rule, or how each individual state will choose to regulate or enforce over time. Even the states do not yet know how they will regulate under the rule, according to a statement made today at the FERC’s technical conference by the Environmental Council of the State’s Executive Director Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. These studies rely upon best guesses, not regulatory certainty. Both studies could be right. Both could be wrong.

If the Clean Power Plan follows in the steps of other major environmental rule makings and statutes, it will not achieve compliance for another generation or two – if ever. It is unlikely that the assumptions relied upon by either study will come to pass.

Photo Credit: United States Department of Energy [Public Domain]