Do you wait until you’re sick to purchase health insurance? Do you wait until after you’ve had an accident to insure your car? If you did, it would be too late.

Now, imagine it’s the middle of winter and your electricity goes out. How would you power your home? How about family members who depend on life support machines to breath?

So, how can American families and businesses avoid losing their electrical power?

After extensive research, meetings, and hearings, the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and experts in the energy sector agree: Something must change. In short, there needs to be an insurance policy for our electric grid.

Millions of families in the northeast region of the country came close to experiencing this scenario during the Polar Vortex in 2014. What saved us were dormant coal-fired power plants being brought back online. Since then, 82 of these same units have been dismantled. If the same weather event were to happen again, we would no longer have this safety net.

In September, the Trump Administration reaffirmed the need for an “all of the above” energy approach that uses all resources, but emphasized the need to support resilient energy sources that can withstand major disruptions to the supply chain.

To address this issue, the DOE has asked FERC to find a way to compensate coal and nuclear in the marketplace for their reliability and resiliency. This will act as the insurance policy to protect us from extreme weather events or other disruptions to our electric grid.

Having reliable energy is critical because of the flurry of natural disasters that we have witnessed over the past few years. From the Polar Vortex to Superstorm Sandy to Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma, we have faced extreme situations that could cause major disruptions to our electric grid.

Experts recommend that we have power generation resources that can be stored in a 90-day supply in case of a disruption. There are currently only two energy sources that can meet this demand: coal and nuclear. While nuclear works continuously once operational, coal also fills this need by storing fuel on site.

Power generation from natural gas relies on an “on time delivery” model that can be affected by anything from weather events, pipeline problems, or potential terrorist attacks. For example, during the Polar Vortex, natural gas understandably was diverted to heat homes, and thus could not be used in the same volumes to create electricity.

Gas, wind, and solar have increasingly been injected into the marketplace, and under normal circumstances, they work well. But under extreme conditions, coal and nuclear are the dependable sources on which we can rely to create electricity.

Securing our electric grid is matter of national and economic security. An unreliable grid is an easy target for those who would seek to do us harm. When we protect our electric grid, we give our job creators and businesses the security they need to expand and grow, which creates more economic prosperity for all Americans.

This issue boils down to how to ensure families and businesses have peace of mind. When you flip the light switch, the lights need to come on. When you turn on the heat in the middle of a cold winter, you need to be sure your family stays warm and safe. Unfortunately, the current way coal is priced in the marketplace is forcing our power plants out of business, and is discouraging investments in modern, efficient coal-fired power plants. And as noted earlier, the other fuel sources aren’t able to make up the difference. If we allow these coal-fired plants to continue to close, America will be in a dangerous predicament.

Consequently, I agree with the Trump Administration and the energy experts: America needs an updated and responsive energy policy to tackle these challenges. In short, America needs an insurance policy for our electric grid.

Rep. David McKinley, a Republican, represents West Virginia’s 1st congressional district.

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