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Senate committee modifies, recommends power grid bill


A measure calling for electric power reliability and price transparency has been changed.

As originally introduced by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson), it would have required all electricity generated in North Dakota is either “dispatchable,” meaning it can ramp up or be shut down quickly, or demonstrates back-up capacity. It also repeals the “25 by 25” initiative, the goal of 25 percent of North Dakota’s electricity coming from renewables by the year 2025.

The change now requires the state to prepare an annual report on the status of the power grid. That falls into the hands of the North Dakota Transmission Authority.

The earlier hearing on the measure focused on keeping coal in the power mix.

"There are three coal-fired power plants, three coal mines and the Dakota Gasification Synfuels plant in Mercer County," said Anne Novak of Hazen, who appeared at the hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to support the measure. "To say that coal is a lifeblood of our communities is almost minimizing how important it is to all of us back home."

Novak told the Committee her town will be "devastated" if action isn't taken.

"Our policy-makers, all of you, need to make clear: North Dakota wants to keep our baseload power operational," Novak said.

Opponents, however, cautioned against over-reliance on coal.

"Reliability is a function of diversity," said Ryan Warner with Lightspring, a Bismarck firm dealing with solar energy. "All energy sources can and are disrupted."

Warner told the Committee the power problems Texas experienced this week were not as a result of over-reliance on renewables – but baseload coal and natural gas plants failed, because they were not prepared for the cold snap. "Generation diversity is the best way to manage sever-weather events," Warner said. "This bill would result in less generation diversity. As it forces monetary and regulatory hurdles on renewable resources, This grid reliability bill will make our grid less reliable."

Testifying on an earlier resolution, Wardner said he is a supporter of an "all of the above" policy when it comes to electric generation. The amended bill received a “do-pass” recommendation on a 5-1 vote.

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