‘Bring on More Renewables,’ U.S. Regulator Says as Grid Study Looms

Source: By Timothy Gardner, Reuters • Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WASHINGTON — Wind and solar power does not make the U.S. electricity grid less stable, an outgoing federal regulator said on Tuesday, as the Trump administration readies a study that will examine whether renewable energy has had a harmful effect.

Colette Honorable, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said at a conference that renewables have different attributes than base load power, which includes coal and nuclear energy, and that those difference need to be overcome.

But Honorable stressed that record amounts of wind and solar power had been generated recently without harming the grid.

“Do I recognize we have to be attendant to supporting the different ways in which renewables work? Yes,” said Honorable, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama, a Democrat, and who will step down on Friday.

“I don’t see any problems with reliability, and I say bring on more renewables,” said Honorable, whose remarks generated warm applause at a conference of the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration arm.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, has embarked on a program to dismantle Obama’s clean-energy policies as renewable power generation hits records.

In February, wind briefly powered more than 50 percent of electricity demand in the 14-state Southwest Power Pool, for the first time on any North American grid.

In March, wind and solar accounted for more than 10 percent of U.S. electricity generation for the first time.

The Energy Department is expected to release the grid study in July. It will take a critical look at the role that renewable energy policies have played in the closure of coal and nuclear electricity plants and see if the loss of those facilities has reduced the grid’s stability.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who in April called on the Energy Department staff to initiate the study, told the EIA conference that it would be a “critical review of regulatory burdens” placed by the Obama administration on base load power plants.

“These politically driven policies, driven primarily by a hostility to coal, threaten the reliability and stability of the greatest electrical grid in the world,” Perry said. The country’s natural gas boom and the growth of renewables have played a large role in closing coal plants.

Perry said the Trump administration was working to find an energy mix that is clean and affordable while ensuring the grid is reliable.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)