Renewable groups push back on Energy Department electric grid study

Source: By Devin Henry, The Hill • Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Four renewable energy groups on Tuesday pushed back against a Department of Energy power sector review that they say threatens wind, solar and other industries.In a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the groups said the agency’s study on the electric grid is “based on a faulty premise” that the growing renewable energy sector is to blame for the retirement of coal and nuclear plants that, in turn, puts grid reliability at risk.

The groups, which have worried that the study is aimed at undercutting wind and solar generation in favor of coal and nuclear sectors, also said the grid review should go through a public comment process with more input from the energy industry.

“We express our disappointment that the Department has apparently chosen not to make this review — which as outlined in your memo has the potential to upend energy markets around the country — public and open to input from industry, grid operators, state regulators and other key stakeholders,” the groups wrote in their letter.Signers of the letter include the American Council on Renewable Energy, American Wind Energy Association, Solar Energy Industries Association and Advanced Energy Economy.

The letter comes as the Energy Department reviews the reliability of the electric grid.

Officials are also probing the impact federal regulations and support for renewable energy have on “baseload” power — the reliable electricity supply generated by large-scale plants that are generally fueled by fossil or nuclear sources.

Critics of renewable power say increased reliance on renewable sources puts the reliability of the electric grid at risk, an assertion wind and solar generators and their allies have disputed.

Perry kicked off the review in April, and Energy Department officials have said they plan to release their findings this summer.

Renewable supporters worry the Energy Department’s study is designed to hurt the growing wind and solar sectors. In a letter to Perry earlier this month, seven Democratic senators said the review “appears to be a thinly-disguised attempt to promote less economic electric generation technologies, such as coal and nuclear, at the expense of cost-competitive wind and solar power.”

The groups behind Tuesday’s letter sent in documents detailing their industries’ impact on the electric grid. They contend that changes to baseload power are driven instead by challenges from low-priced natural gas, which has made coal and nuclear plants less competitive. The groups also say that operators are effectively integrating renewable power onto the grid.

“We believe that, taken together, these reports demonstrate that the U.S. electric power system is more diverse in its energy sources than ever before, and due to the flexible way these resources are now managed, becoming more reliable and resilient as a result,” the groups wrote.