Perry touts renewables as Trump mocks them

Source: Jeremy Dillon and Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporters • Posted: Monday, April 1, 2019


Energy Secretary Rick Perry reiterated this morning the Department of Energy’s belief in renewable energy as an important part of a broader “all-the-above” portfolio during an event put on by RealClearPolitics and sponsored by the coal lobby.

The secretary’s comments during a Washington, D.C., event appear at odds to rhetoric from President Trump during campaign rallies in recent days, where he criticized wind power as unreliable compared with other forms of energy.

For Perry, who touted during the event the solar industry’s 90 percent growth over the past two years as well as Texas’ wind capacity compared with Europe, renewables will have an increasingly important role in power generation.

“I think it can,” Perry said on the prospect of renewable deployment doubling over the next decade. “And I’m for that,” he added.

“I hope that no one gets confused that this administration is not for all those forms of energy,” Perry said. “We are. We are going to need it all.”

As evidence to that point, Perry highlighted DOE’s approach to battery storage research and development, which he dubbed “the holy grail” of unleashing renewable technology.

“The Department of Energy is very, very involved and interested in investing substantial dollars in battery storage technology,” Perry said. “We figure that one out, we really change the whole future of energy use in the world.”

While Perry’s comments advocated for technology-neutral policies, the White House has been using a different approach. Trump used a campaign rally last night to criticize wind as unreliable.

“If it doesn’t blow, you can forget about television,” Trump said. “For that night, ‘Darling, I want to watch television.’ ‘I’m sorry! The wind isn’t blowing.'”

Trump added that he “knows a lot about wind,” repeating the phrase twice.

The television line has appeared before in Trump’s speeches. Last week during a stop to a tank factory in Ohio, Trump mocked renewables as threats to cause electricity blackouts and lower property values (Energywire, March 21).

In addition to campaign rhetoric, the White House’s fiscal 2020 budget request proposed slashing DOE research and development across all technologies, including fossil and nuclear.

Those proposed cuts would also reduce DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy by nearly $2 billion, or an 86 percent reduction, from fiscal 2019 enacted numbers.

Perry’s defense of renewables did not, however, pre-empt his defense of reliability and resilience in the grid through fuel sources like coal and nuclear that can provide “uninterruptable” power.

“I’m a big believer that you don’t put all your eggs into one basket,” Perry said. “As a matter of fact, you try to have an ‘all-the-above’ energy strategy, which is what President Trump is interested in. He wants to see that diversity of both fuel supplies and routes.”

Perry touted DOE’s focus on developing defenses against cyberattacks on the nation’s power grid as critical to that effort.

“Electrons are now being used as weapons,” he said, noting the department’s national laboratories are using a “test grid” to see how hostile viruses act and “really test what we see are the vulnerabilities in our grid.”

But there is one possible scenario “that bothers me,” Perry said. “What I worry about is one of those really bad weather events — particularly a polar vortex — that settles in over the Northeastern part of this country for a week-plus.”

The secretary said, “And an adversary of the United States has placed a virus upon some control systems and electrical generation in the Northeast and there is a physical attack on a gas pipeline — all coordinated — waiting for that weather event to occur.”

If that occurs and “you lose electricity to the Northeastern part of the United States for multiple days,” there would be chaos, he said. “That, I’m worried about.”