A power grid operator that serves millions of Americans across the mid-Atlantic is warning that a planned coal-fired power plant shutdown will severely threaten electricity supplies and occur before new power sources come online.
PJM Interconnection — which coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia, serving 65 million consumers — said the forthcoming shutdown of Brandon Shores coal power plant located outside of Baltimore will disrupt the reliability of the region's grid. The plant's operator, Texas-based Talen Energy, intends to deactivate the plant in June 2025 as part of a settlement with the left-wing eco group Sierra Club.
"There has been a strong push for quite some time to get coal power out of Maryland," Christopher Summers, the founder and president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, told Fox News Digital in an interview. "In this accelerated timeline of exiting from coal-fired power plants in the coming 12 to 24 months, I think it's going to create a major reliability concern for the state."
"The loss of power poses a real danger to the well-being and livelihoods of Maryland families and businesses," Summers said. "Until these current risks to our grid are fully dealt with, it's a mistake to close reliable, baseload power plants too soon. That should be a concern to consumers in Maryland and businesses in Maryland that rely on dependable power."
In 2020, Talen Energy announced it had reached an agreement with Sierra Club to shutter Brandon Shores and two other major coal power plants in the region. The decision was made in exchange for an agreement from the Sierra Club which aims to avoid future litigation or permit disputes related to coal at Talen Energy's "transitioning sites."
Ralph Alexander, the then-CEO of Talen Energy, said at the time that his company's move was part of its transition to green energy and its broader environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused future. According to the company's current ESG commitments, it plans to entirely eliminate the use of coal in its wholly-owned generation facilities like Brandon Shores, which generate more than 5,000 megawatts of power nationwide.
However, according to PJM Interconnection, prematurely shutting down Brandon Shores — which has a capacity of 1,295 megawatts, enough to power more than a million homes — would spark an imbalance in the grid. Shuttering such a vital power source requires the regional grid operator to divert electricity generated elsewhere, but transmission upgrades in Maryland aren't expected to be finished until 2028, three years after the planned Brandon Shores closure.
"The PJM region and the state of Maryland are facing future reliability challenges as a result of the announced retirement of the Brandon Shores units," Jeff Shields, a spokesperson for PJM Interconnection, told Fox News Digital. "Specifically, PJM analyses showed that the deactivation of the Brandon Shores units would cause severe voltage drop and thermal violations across seven PJM zones, which could lead to a widespread reliability risks in Baltimore and the immediate surrounding areas."
"Therefore, there is an urgent need to upgrade the transmission system in order to maintain reliability and the flow of power to the 65 million people we serve," Shields said. "The chosen transmission solutions include in-service estimates in the 2027-2028 timeframe."
Because of the tight timeframe, PJM has requested that Brandon Shores remains in operation through 2028 under a so-called Reliability Must-Run Agreement until transmission upgrades are completed. However, Shields noted Talen Energy's agreement with Sierra Club prevents such an agreement from moving forward.
Additionally, while Talen Energy previously said it would convert Brandon Shores to rely on another, less emitting fuel source, it ultimately abandoned that plan and opted to completely close the facility, potentially increasing future reliability concerns.
Both PJM and Talen Energy confirmed they are currently engaged in negotiations with the Sierra Club and Maryland state officials to find a solution.
"Talen is currently in discussions with PJM and others regarding the reliability issue claimed by PJM," Taryne WIlliams, a spokesperson for Talen Energy, told Fox News Digital in an email.
"We are always mindful of regional electric system reliability and how it relates to electricity consumers in Maryland," added Maryland Public Service Commission spokesperson Tori Leonard in a statement, noting that PJM is responsible for reliably operating the regional transmission grid.
Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) intervened and greenlighted PJM's nearly $800 million emergency plan for transmission upgrades to blunt the Brandon Shores closure.
FERC Commissioner Mark Christie said on Nov. 8 that, without proper upgrades, the shutdown could cause "severe voltage collapse in Baltimore and the surrounding zones, including Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania," adding such a scenario would be "potentially catastrophic."
"Closing an efficient, low-cost energy producing plant like Brandon Shores is just one more way America is surrendering our energy advantage to China and Russia," Rep. Andy Harris, the sole Republican member of Maryland's congressional delegation, told Fox News Digital in a statement.
"It is foolish to think that anything will come of this short-sighted energy policy, cooked up by the out-of-touch liberals who run Maryland, other than even more expensive electricity bills for hard-working, over-taxed Maryland families," he said.
Maryland has pursued some of the nation's most aggressive clean energy goals. As part of that agenda, the state last year enacted the Climate Solutions Now Act, which requires Maryland to achieve a state-level "net zero" greenhouse emissions mandate by 2045.
Democratic Gov. Wes Moore, who entered office in January, has called for the state's power grid to be entirely powered by green energy by 2035 through reducing energy consumption and "supercharging investments" in wind and solar developments.
"Governor Moore remains committed to a vision for Maryland’s future that includes 100 percent clean energy — a commitment that will bring countless jobs and hundreds of millions in economic investment across the state," Carter Elliott, a spokesperson for Moore, told Fox News Digital. "Earlier this year, the governor was proud to sign the POWER Act and partner with Ørsted to announce Maryland’s First Offshore Wind Turbine Component Center at Tradepoint Atlantic."
"Ørsted's projects will support the creation of thousands of jobs in Maryland, power nearly 300,000 homes with renewable energy, and help the state achieve its goals of 8.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2031. At every opportunity, the governor has worked aggressively to help Maryland meet its energy goals, and he will continue to lead the state with that goal at the top of mind while maintaining grid reliability and protecting ratepayers."
The spokesperson declined to comment on the Brandon Shores closure.