Solar industry mum as trade groups praise grid study

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, September 18, 2017

Energy trade groups praised the Department of Energy yesterday for its staff report on grid reliability, but one industry group was conspicuously absent.

A letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which praised the grid study’s focus on fuel diversity, was signed by the trade groups for nuclear, oil, mining, gas, hydropower and wind.

Missing: solar.

Said Dan Whitten, the Solar Energy Industries Association spokesman, “We think the letter raises several valid points, and we view it as a productive step. We appreciate that we were invited to join it and look forward to working with all the groups on the letter and with policymakers to develop sound policy to address these extraordinarily nuanced and complex issues.”

The letter was broadly worded and did not refer to any individual source of power.

“This study underscores that diversity of resources and technologies — and, thereby, a diversity of services — is needed to provide reliable and affordable electricity for customers,” the letter says.

The study, which was released late last month, found the grid operating reliably and said the primary reason for the retirement of coal plants has been the economic advantages of cheap natural gas, not the increasing use of renewable power sources.

Supporters of the wind industry — which is often paired and compared with solar as both are renewable and “intermittent” — praised the study.

American Wind Energy Association chief Tom Kiernan, who signed yesterday’s letter, said the report provided a “number of valuable policy recommendations,” and congressional wind backer Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said it treated the industry “fairly” (E&E News PM, Aug. 24).

Solar’s reaction was more muted.

“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,” SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said then.

Reporter Christa Marshall contributed.