Pricing grid reliability in electricity markets
Seeking to defend irreplaceable baseload power generation infrastructure to continue providing resilience and security to the national grid, the UWUA recently filed comments both individually, and in conjunction with other energy-sector labor unions, with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Continued under-valuation of the contribution that is made by coal and nuclear generation facilities is resulting in the premature closure of power plants, leading to unprecedented national security concerns, the displacement of workers, and the loss of high-quality jobs.
In seeking action from DOE, either under the Federal Power Act, the National Defense Act, or other DOE authorities, the UWUA has made the case that the nation faces a crisis as these essential facilities are taken off-line without adequate planning for the long-term effects on the reliability of the country’s power supply.
The UWUA has taken the position that these facilities must be accurately valued for the service they provide to the nation’s electric infrastructure, a value for which the marketplace currently does not properly account. If allowed to close, these plants cannot be brought back in any meaningful timeframe and, as such, the UWUA will continue to fight for them to retain good jobs and their critical place in our national power system.
Promoting carbon capture for a coal-fired future
This June, leadership from both the National, and UWUA Local 127, will be joining Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock, along with other high-level national political figures at CONNECT 2018, an exclusive dialogue on the necessity for building out carbon capture infrastructure being held in Jackson Hole, WY. Convened by the governors, the event is designed to increase public understanding and harness leadership support for carbon capture among members of Congress, industry executives, labor, philanthropic and non-governmental organization leaders, journalists, and media influencers.
As a cost-effective and essential solution for continuing to meet global energy needs while preserving and creating jobs and reducing CO2 emissions, carbon capture technology still remains poorly understood by many, despite having been in use as a part of the oil industry in Texas and Louisiana for nearly 50 years.
With the successful passage of tax legislation earlier this year providing financial support for building out the industry on a national scale, the UWUA is now looking ahead to actual project development and beginning to form relationships with pipeline and energy industry companies looking to harness carbon emissions from powerplants such as those operated by WY Local 127.
Uniquely suited for early-stage development of scaled-up carbon capture projects given the region’s geography, energy reserves, political climate, and abundance of coal resources in the Powder River Basin, western states such as Wyoming and Montana are leading the way to a future for coal-fired energy production. As an employer of tens of thousands of workers throughout the supply chain, as well as a support for the surrounding regional economy, energy extraction, whether in the form of coal, oil, or natural gas, forms the economic bedrock of the area. Adding carbon capture technology to the mix will allow this industry to continue to thrive and be even more profitable, all in a manner calculated to minimize potential impacts on the environment.
Fighting for existing contracts and future nuclear work
As the UWUA continues its focus on the safety of the nation’s nuclear power reactors, the union has been turning its attention to what safety means in the context of decommissioning these reactors, if and when they close. With four UWUA facilities having announced either a firm decision to close in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York, or a possibility of closure if circumstances remain unchanged, in Ohio, the leadership of the four affected locals, along with the National Union, is continuing dialogue with the effected companies, Entergy and First Energy Solutions, regarding the future of their workforce.
This July, the union will be sitting down with officials from Entergy to discuss the future of UWUA members’ work at their plants beyond the cessation of reactor operations. It has long been the position of the UWUA that no one is better trained, or more knowledgeable about the safe decommissioning of nuclear powerplants, than the workers who have spent years, even decades, operating and maintaining these facilities all along. With some corporations in the industry moving to outsource decommissioning work, the UWUA’s focus will remain on fighting for a role for those workers who are already in place, ready and able to do the job safely.
Meanwhile, in the wake of a bankruptcy filing by First Energy Solutions, the UWUA has taken an active role in the unfolding case, having been named to the creditors’ committee along with other affected First Energy unions.
To date, the company has agreed to honor existing contracts but has made it clear that all its powerplants, including the Perry Nuclear Power Station in Ohio, are in danger of being closed. In response, the UWUA has continued its advocacy for market reforms to properly price the reliability and security value of these facilities into wholesale electric markets, and has begun to reach out to private investors to gauge interest in new investment for plants such as the Perry nuclear facility.
The future of wind energy
Looking to the future of jobs in the offshore wind energy industry, the UWUA recently reached agreement with project developers, area educators and other labor unions to develop a training center in New Bedford, MA to prepare future UWUA members for work in the operation and maintenance of wind generators along the Atlantic seaboard. Working with Orsted North America, Eversource Energy, Bristol Community College, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and unions such as the IBEW and Ironworkers, these agreements set the stage for the development of this concept, one that, over time, will train workers for high-road union jobs as more and more wind turbines are built offshore.
Currently planned developments by companies such as Vineyard Wind and Deepwater Wind would be the first industrial-scale offshore wind farms in the United States, located off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Over time, as this new energy source becomes more fully developed along the Atlantic coast, the UWUA will continue to seek new opportunities for current and future members to find work.
“Clean energy is the industry of the future,” said Phillip Trombly, UWUA regional director of Offshore Wind. “We are 100% confident that this resource is not only well positioned to deliver clean power for the homes and businesses along the east coast at a good price, but also to provide future opportunities for regional workforces needed for this brand-new industry to fully develop here in the United States.”
Through these new agreements on training, the UWUA has charted a path toward a bright offshore energy future, one that will employ union members for decades to come.