TransForum East speakers discuss greener, more distributed grid

The nation’s electric grid is morphing into one that is greener, more distributed and less dependent on conventional coal plants, speakers told the sixth PennWell TransForum East conference Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.

The nation is looking for low-emission power, Brattle Group Principal Judy Chang told the gathering, which is organized by TransmissionHub.

Increased use of distributed energy, including wind and solar, means that many electricity customers are both consuming and producing power, Chang said.

Various speakers also tried their hand at predicting energy policy developments during the administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

Skadden LLP Partner Paul Kraske noted there have already been a slew of webinars on how a Trump administration might affect energy policy. “I’m here to tell you – nobody knows,” Kraske said.

The general consensus seemed to be that the trend toward more renewable and distributed resources won’t stop in the next administration. Another trend that might not go away is increased reliance on natural gas for power generation, officials noted.

“Yeah, Trump is the champion of coal, but as long as you’ve got $3 gas,” the current environment will prevail, said Scotiabank Power & Utilities Co-Head Boyd Nelson.

Natural gas power plants also tend to be located closer to demand centers than the generation they replace, said PA Consulting Managing Consultant Bill Babcock.

Natural gas is the “fuel of choice” in New England following the retirement of various coal and oil-fired generation, said ISO New England (ISO NE) Vice President Stephen Rourke. This increased gas reliance, however, faces some hurdles when it comes to building new pipeline capacity, the ISO NE official added.

It’s also worth noting that retirement of the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, and the planned retirement of Pilgrim, threatens to stall the decline of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the region, Rourke said.

The ISO New England official also said there will be transmission implications from the Massachusetts plans to import huge amounts of hydroelectric generation from Canada.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.