According to a recent report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Washington, D.C., the widespread push to reduce carbon emissions while increasing the use of renewable fuels for the generation of electricity could compromise electric reliability across North America.

NERC's “Special Report on Electric Industry Concerns on Reliability Impacts of Climate Change Initiatives” identifies four key reliability issues associated with climate change initiatives that must be addressed as these policies advance:

Broad-scale fuel switching from coal to natural gas

Currently, coal-fired generation provides approximately 50% of North America's electric capacity. Retirements of coal-fired plants over a short time line could lead to the loss of generation needed to support the integrity of the bulk power system, thus impacting reliability across the continent — especially in regions that depend heavily on the fuel.

Transmission infrastructure and planning mechanisms

The existing bulk transmission network is inadequate to reliably deliver power from new renewable resources to demand centers. Innovative planning and operational mechanisms will be needed as states and provinces attempt to deliver “clean energy” over already heavily loaded transmission lines to meet renewable portfolio standard requirements.

Demand-side resources

Managing growing demand will be critical to meeting both climate and reliability goals, making demand-side resources a critical component of the resource mix. Dispatchable demand response will be especially important because it adds needed system flexibility and supports the integration of new variable generation, such as wind power.

National climate change policy in the United States

A decision on national climate change policy is needed in the United States to provide regulatory certainty as well as support for industry action. Delay on this important policy is negatively impacting both reliability and climate objectives.

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To view the report in its entirety, visit www.nerc.com/files/2008-Climate-Initiatives-Report.pdf.