Think tank to governors: Question Perry’s grid study

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s high-profile study on the electric grid is not expected to be released until later this month, but organizations on the opposite side of the political spectrum are already throwing out rebuttals to what they expect it will say.

The review, which was launched in April and has been delayed by a month, is examining how energy policies could be contributing to nuclear and coal plant closures. In ordering the study, Perry suggested that regulatory burdens and subsidies benefiting renewable energy have a negative effect on baseload power plants, forcing them to close and in turn threatening grid stability.

In a blog post today, the liberal think tank Center for American Progress offered arguments about Perry’s premise, directed specifically at governors.

“With the grid study’s release drawing near, governors have a crucial role in understanding the impacts of Perry’s grid study on their states’ electricity systems and markets, utility commissions, public health and clean air, and jobs,” wrote the group’s associate director of domestic energy policy, Luke Bassett.

Bassett contested Perry’s claim that baseload power is “necessary” to maintaining stability, citing recent reports from grid operators in several regions signaling that it is possible to use higher rates of solar, wind and natural gas energy sources without compromising reliability.

“Baseload power resources have had and will continue to have an important role in the electric grid, but other generation sources are joining their ranks and replacing them,” he wrote.

CAP also highlighted worries that the study could pave the way for “aggressive” federal policy intervention in state-level regulation.

Perry said at a conference in April that he believes there are “issues that are so important to the national security of this country that the federal government can intervene on the regulatory side.”

But Bassett noted that federal law allows DOE or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to expand its authority over grid operators only in cases of blackout emergencies or attacks.

“Governors should stand guard, ask questions — particularly regarding any emergency declaration — and ensure that they retain their authority and protect the authorities of their appointed state regulators and the independent grid operators managing the power system,” he wrote.

Another potential impact of the study is on clean energy jobs, which Bassett wrote constitute a $9.4 billion market in the United States.

Interventions into state regulations could stall growth in the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries, he wrote.

“The impacts of Perry’s grid study could be wide-ranging and more unpredictable than his initial memorandum suggests, and state leaders need to be armed with information about its impacts on their authority and their state’s electric grid, generation mix, and related jobs,” Bassett wrote.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has also come out with its own report attempting to debunk Perry’s claim that baseload power is necessary for stability (Greenwire, June 26).