Tablet Opinion

ERCOT wants ‘safety valve’ in EPA plan

Top Texas officials have already decried the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan rules aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, so it’s no surprise that the state’s main power grid operator has chimed in.

A report Monday from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas showed a bunch of alarming negatives, including a prediction that the plan would cause power costs for consumers to increase 20 percent or more by 2020.

But ERCOT isn’t a watchdog over how much electricity costs — its job is to make sure power is available when Texans want it.

And along that line, the agency also backed a key recommendation for making the Clean Power Plan work better if the EPA, as expected, makes its rules final.

The concern about power reliability is that coal-fired power plants, which Texas has in abundance, will be pushed out of business faster than expected, leaving the electrical grid short-supplied during periods of peak demand.

“There is a natural pace of change in grid resources due to advancing cost-effective technologies and changing market conditions,” the ERCOT report says. “The pace can be accelerated, but there is a limit to how fast this change can occur within acceptable reliability constraints.”

A national group of power grid operators has said there should be a “reliability safety valve process” in carbon dioxide emission reduction standards.

The group also recommends allowing states to consider electric grid reliability as they draw up implementation plans to meet EPA-required carbon dioxide emissions goals.

“These proposals could help mitigate the potential reliability impacts of the Clean Power Plan,” ERCOT said.

Texas officials complain that, under EPA numbers, the state would be responsible for up to 25 percent of the nation’s total emissions reductions. That’s partly because Texas is by far the leader in carbon dioxide emissions.

Much as reductions might be needed, the state still can’t give up electric reliability. The EPA should consider the “safety valve” request.