Portman, Manchin Urge Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to Examine Reliability of the Electricity Grid

March 14, 2014 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, yesterday sent a letter to Energy Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in support of a request made by the United Mine Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Utility Workers Union of America, and others for the committee to hold a hearing on grid stability and reliability.

In January, much of the Midwest experienced extreme cold temperatures.  The cold temperatures drove increased electricity use and saw PJM, the region’s grid operator, set a new winter peak utilization record.  A number of the electricity generation units that were called on to help meet this load are scheduled to be retired in 2015 to comply with EPA mercury and toxic standards.

In the letter, Portman and Manchin write, “This is a timely request, as an extremely cold winter in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic created an unprecedented demand for electricity and pushed the region’s electricity grid to its limits…We respectfully request that the committee convene a hearing to explore the issues raised by the unions regarding: federal regulations; the shift in producing electricity from coal to producing electricity from natural gas, wind and solar; the low market valuation and deterrence of new entry of ‘steel in the ground’ generation; the availability of demand response during winter; and the overall volatility in the markets.”

A signed copy of the letter is available here. The text of the letter is available below:
 
Dear Chair Landrieu and Ranking Member Murkowski;

We write in support of a request made by the United Mine Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Utility Workers Union of America, and others for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to hold a hearing on grid stability and reliability.  The original request was made through a letter dated February 3, 2014 and signed by the Presidents of those unions.  The request is supported by the utility industry.

This is a timely request, as an extremely cold winter in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic created an unprecedented demand for electricity and pushed the region’s electricity grid to its limits.  On January 7, 2014, PJM, the regional transmission organization, set a winter peak demand record of 141,312 megawatts used.  And, during this time, PJM fell below its generation reserve requirement, bringing the PJM footprint incredibly close to shedding load.  If blackouts or brownouts had occurred, it would have endangered public health and safety across the country and cost our economy significant dollars in lost productivity.

It is important that we as policy makers understand the factors that brought the grid so close to shedding load.  We respectfully request that the committee convene a hearing to explore the issues raised by the unions regarding: federal regulations; the shift in producing electricity from coal to producing electricity from natural gas, wind and solar; the low market valuation and deterrence of new entry of “steel in the ground” generation; the availability of demand response during winter; and the overall volatility in the markets. 

We appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to your response.