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Energy Department proposes change to electricity pricing that could boost coal, nuclear plants

  • U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry told regulators to consider a rule that would change the way electricity is priced in wholesale markets.
  • The rule seeks to value the characteristics of so-called baseload power, which would likely bolster coal-fired and nuclear plants.
  • Natural gas and renewable resources have eaten into coal and nuclear power's share of the U.S. energy mix.

AP

The U.S. Department of Energy on Friday proposed a rule that would change the way regional power markets price electricity, potentially bolstering ailing coal and nuclear plants.

The rule would require the organizations to factor in certain characteristics of coal-fired and nuclear power generation when they set prices for electricity. The sources, known as baseload, provide steady, uninterrupted power, but have lost market share to natural gas and renewable energy in recent years.

The rise of these energy sources, especially solar and wind power, has raised concerns in some circles about the reliability of U.S. power generation. Energy harvested by wind turbines and solar panels provides intermittent power, meaning it is only available when the wind blows and the sun shines.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is among those concerned about America's shifting power mix.

"A reliable and resilient electrical grid is critical not only to our national and economic security, but also to the everyday lives of American families," Perry said in a statement. "A diverse mix of power generation resources, including those with on-site reserves, is essential to the reliable delivery of electricity — particularly in times of supply stress such as recent natural disasters."

Environmental groups immediately sought to characterize the proposed rule as a handout to fossil fuel and nuclear interests.

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