Concerns over the reliability and resilience of the U.S. electric grid have heightened over the past year or so, as policymakers, regulators and operators look closer at what it takes to assure adequate supplies of power at the least cost. And the issue is likely to remain one of the top energy priorities in Washington and state capitals in 2019.
On this edition of the Columbia Energy Exchange podcast, host Bill Loveless sits down with Andy Ott, the president and CEO of PJM Interconnection, the largest power grid in North America. PJM coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest as well as in the District of Columbia. Andy joined PJM 21 years ago and has been responsible for the design and implementation of PJM wholesale power markets. He became CEO in 2015.
Bill and Andy got together in Washington, D.C. to talk about PJM, which is attracting close attention, given its size. Their discussion took place just after PJM released a study examining fuel security for the system in coming years and amid efforts in Washington, D.C. and some states to keep old nuclear and coal plants from shutting down.
They talked about that study, which included both good news and some warnings, as well as the challenges of accommodating new policies and regulations without disrupting the economic efficiency of the power market. They also looked at wholesale power markets in general and how they have weathered the passage of time since the U.S. government authorized their establishment some 20 years ago. After all, more than half the country is served by such markets. Can they still meet their original objectives of keeping the cost of electricity down while at the same time promoting innovation?
The challenges facing nuclear energy in the United States are mounting. Just a decade ago there were predictions that nuclear power was poised for a renaissance, but the sector is struggling to stave off decline. Plants are closing and there are no plans for any large-scale new projects.
In this episode of the Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless sits down with Maria Korsnick, the president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s trade association in Washington, D.C. A nuclear engineer by training, Maria joined NEI two years ago from Exelon Corp., where she was senior vice president for Northeast Operations, responsible for nuclear plants in Maryland and New York. Before that, she was the chief nuclear officer and acting CEO at Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.
Maria and Bill talked about the early retirements of nuclear power plants and the efforts by states and the Trump administration to prevent more reactors from going off-line. They also explored the extent to which nuclear power’s reputation for carbon-free emissions could become a bigger rallying cry for the industry as the outlook for addressing climate change darkens. The discussion also touched upon whether Republicans and Democrats in Congress might put aside partisan differences in 2019 to agree on steps to promote nuclear power, including the development of small modular reactors, given the results of the midterm elections.