Grid review splits renewable energy providers

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Several renewable energy groups are urging Energy Secretary Rick Perry to use a contested grid study to consider how their industries are not receiving the same benefits as wind, natural gas and other technologies.

Critics see DOE’s review of grid reliability and subsidies as a potential threat to the federal wind tax credit, especially since study leader Travis Fisher has questioned its value and the broader benefit of renewable energy mandates (Greenwire, April 19).

But the groups behind the letter — which represent renewable industries providing baseload power — are targeting the DOE study as a way to address what they say are unfair policies at the state and federal level.

The National Hydropower Association, the American Biogas Council, the Geothermal Energy Association, the Energy Recovery Council and the Biomass Power Association said they were “very encouraged” by DOE’s action to assess the grid.

“The build-out of wind, solar and natural gas over the past decade has far outpaced that of hydropower, biomass, geothermal, biogas and waste-to-energy,” the groups wrote in the letter to Perry last week.

“Due to low market prices for natural gas and wind, and a history of federal and state support that has favored these technologies, baseload renewables have been struggling to compete and, in some cases, are facing closures,” they said.

Unlike with other renewables, tax credits benefiting the groups on the letter have expired and are often not recognized in state renewable programs.

The advocates requested a meeting with Perry to help ensure that the grid review demonstrates “the need to better recognize, value and properly compensate renewable baseload technologies” that provide nearly 10 percent of total U.S. power.

Perry has said little about the grid study in the past week, instead focusing on a tour of the national labs and a visit to a Veterans Affairs medical center in Houston today.

Last month, he floated the idea of pre-empting state energy policy in a speech in New York, although it remains unclear the degree to which the department might look into renewable mandates (Energywire, April 26).

Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said he hopes DOE will consider the groups’ concerns. That “would be a constructive result,” he said.

Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, said in an email, “Thanks to technology advances, wind and solar plants now provide the grid reliability services discussed in this letter as well as or better than other resources.”