Officials in Trump's Department of Energy prepared a plan to use unprecedented "emergency powers" to force the US grid to rely on expensive, unprofitable coal and nuclear power, rather than paying market rates for cheaper sources of energy: renewables and natural gas.
The plan will cost Americans an additional $311,000,000 – $11,800,000,000/year according to estimates from researchers at Energy Innovation and the Climate Policy Initiative.
The plan poses the "premature retirements" of these unprofitable power-plants as a national security matter, that would leave the country vulnerable to cyberattacks and extreme weather events.
The plan proposes action under the Cold War-era Section 202 Federal Power Act, and the Defense Production Act, invoked by Harry Truman 68 years ago to subsidize US steel production.
"Federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity," says a 41-page draft memo circulated before a National Security Council meeting on the subject Friday.
The plan cuts to the heart of a debate over the reliability and resiliency of a rapidly evolving U.S. electricity grid. Nuclear and coal-fired power plants are struggling to compete against cheap natural gas and renewable electricity. As nuclear and coal plants are decommissioned, regulators have been grappling with how to ensure that the nation's power system can withstand extreme weather events and cyber-attacks.
Although the memo describes a planned Energy Department directive, there was no indication President Donald Trump had signed off on the action nor when any order might be issued. The document, dated May 29 and distributed Thursday, is marked as a "draft," which is "not for further distribution," and could be used by administration officials to justify the intervention.
Trump Prepares Lifeline for Money-Losing Coal Plants [Jennifer A Dlouhy/Bloomberg]