Grassley praises grid study for treating wind power ‘fairly’

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, August 25, 2017

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is singing the praises of the Department of Energy’s long-awaited grid study after slamming it months ago as a “hastily developed” analysis.

In a statement this afternoon, Grassley — a longtime supporter of wind power — said the report treats the industry “fairly.”

“I also appreciate that Secretary [Rick] Perry welcomed input from the energy community. Those of us who know what wind energy looks like in the 21st Century weighed in early on. We urged the Energy Department to avoid any pre-determined conclusion that wind energy is unreliable or unworthy of taxpayer resources. The Energy Department appears to have done that,” Grassley said.

His comments echo those from American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan, who said the report provides a “number of valuable policy recommendations.”

“In particular, DOE’s recommendations to value essential reliability services, which wind provides; to minimize regulatory barriers to energy production; and to accelerate infrastructure and development are prudent and will help continue America’s wind power success story,” Kiernan said.

Grassley and wind supporters raised early warning bells about DOE’s plans, which many viewed as a potential attack on the wind production tax credit. A DOE official guiding the grid study, Travis Fisher, was sharply critical of renewable mandates in his former role as economist at the Institute for Energy Research.

In May, Grassley sent a letter to Perry warning that a “hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible.”

The 187-page report, released last night after being requested by Perry months ago, received a broad swath of industry praise but criticism from groups concerned about the lack of climate change language and changes from an earlier leaked draft (Greenwire, Aug. 24).

Among the critics was Earthjustice, which said in a statement that “the report shows that science is not safe from manipulation under this administration. Sound findings in the earlier draft of the report have been mysteriously excised, replaced by trumped up claims about the costs of environmental regulations.”

Graham Richard, chief executive of Advanced Energy Economy, said the report “seriously overstates the challenges associated with new energy resources.”

“Our nation’s grid operators themselves have said they are facing no difficulty in managing an increasingly diverse set of resources, and that they will have no difficulty maintaining reliability as uncompetitive power plants inevitably retire,” he said.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said “it’s been proven time and again that a diversified electricity mix is good for the overall system and poses no threat to the reliability of our nation’s grid.”

The report blames natural gas as the chief contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements, but it doesn’t let wind and solar power off the hook, saying they have “negatively impacted the economics of baseload plants.”

It cites a May Federal Energy Regulatory Commission technical conference where economists said renewable portfolio standards and federal renewable tax credits are “market-distorting subsidies.”

At the same time, the report concludes that current data do not show a “widespread relationship” between VRE (variable renewable energy sources) penetration and baseload retirements.