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“Voltage Collapse and Blackout Conditions”: EPA’s Power Plant Rule Trashed by SPP

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 28, 2014

“As a result of the assumed EPA retirements with no resource additions, the SPP network was so severely stressed by large reactive deficiencies that the software used in the analysis was unable to produce meaningful results, which is generally indicative of voltage collapse and blackout conditions.”

– Southwest Power Pool, “Reliability Impact Assessment of the EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan,” October 8, 2014.

The states and their multistate organizations are weighting in against the Obama administration’s proposed new regulations aimed at reducing emissions from existing electric powerplants 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030. They are doing the math, and both cost and reliability are computing negatively.

Last week, MasterResource highlighted pushback from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, which stated: “As currently drafted, the carbon emission rates that EPA proposes for Virginia are arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful. Staff added:

Virginia’s compliance with the Proposed Regulation, as currently drafted, will be expensive and will be paid for by Virginia residents and businesses. Contrary to the claim that “rates will go up, but bills will go down”, experience and costs in Virginia make it extremely unlikely that either electric rates or bills in Virginia will go down as a result of the Proposed Regulation.

Joining Virginia’s angst is the Southwest Power Pool, which is mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to “ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and competitive wholesale prices of electricity.” As one of nine Independent System Operators/Regional Transmission Organizations in North America, as well as one of eight NERC Regional Entities, SPP is entrusted to, simply, keep the lights on and help keep electricity affordable in nine states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Here is conclusion from SPP’s new report:

Development of a stable, secure, efficient and effective bulk electric power system takes time. Disruptive changes such as retirements, retrofits and/or changes in the operating characteristics of base load resources, must be considered carefully and communicated clearly in a transparent and open process.

The findings in this Assessment make it very clear that new generation and transmission expansion will be necessary to maintain reliability during summer peak conditions if EPA’s projected generator retirements occur.

Even the scenario that assumes optimal resource expansion using new natural gas fired resources could be problematic during extreme winter load conditions with gas supply and delivery challenges. This Assessment does not consider outages to accommodate retrofits/cut-ins, time and efforts to get new replacement thermal capacity approved, and in service to offset capacity losses or transmission upgrades to maintain system reliability.

More comprehensive planning efforts with stakeholders and new tools/metrics will be required. Unprecedented coordination and cooperation beyond regional planning efforts will be necessary, but may not be timely given significant challenges with interregional planning and necessary system expansion. In addition, broader system assessments of the bulk power system, and natural gas pipeline and storage systems based on environmental constraints will be required.

Other state and multistate comments to Gina McCarthy’s Power Plant Rule will be shared at MasterResource in the days and weeks ahead.

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