Trump on renewable energy: ‘Hydro, I love’

Source: By Lesley Clark and Hannah Northey, E&E News reporters • Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020

President Trump yesterday railed against Democrats for pushing cleaner forms of energy not ready for prime time, even as he declared hydropower “one of my all-time favorites.”

“Hydro, I love, I have to tell you,” Trump mused before a small crowd of Republican delegates in Charlotte, N.C., as he kicked off what is expected to be a daily appearance at this week’s Republican National Convention. “That’s the great dams.”

Trump added that hydropower is “not seen too much,” accusing environmentalists of blocking construction of dams.

His comments came as he attacked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s position on fracking and suggested renewables like solar wouldn’t replace fossil fuels. They also occurred as a number of Trump administration officials huddled at the Hoover Dam in Nevada to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), vowing to boost hydropower, calling it a critical backup for renewables and touting their collaboration.

“The Trump administration, and we are all representatives, has told us, ‘Go make energy reliable in this country; make domestic energy reliable for this country,’ and that’s what hydropower does,” said Brenda Burman, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Burman dismissed past reports of infighting or lack of communication among federal agencies, saying the Bureau of Reclamation, Energy Department and Army Corps of Engineers — all the entities that signed the MOU — consistently work together to sustain Western hydropower alongside renewables.

Burman said the MOU shows the government’s acknowledgement of the need to ensure that hydropower is as cost-effective as possible, to train the next generation of workers in the hydropower space, and to modernize and rehabilitate the nation’s infrastructure.

“When the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing, hydropower is there in a split second for all the people across the West who need electricity,” she said.

At the signing in Nevada, Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, also emphasized the role hydropower plays to boost renewables on the grid.

Simmons noted that the Army Corps and BLM account for 40% of the nation’s hydropower capacity and said the energy source will be critical in the area of “flexibility” and supporting large amounts of solar and wind generation on the system.

The Bonneville Power Administration last week was able to ramp up hydropower production to the maximum amount possible to help California, he added, at a time when wind generation was down.

“With solar, with wind, we need to balance this grid of the future, and hydropower is the way to do that,” said Simmons.

Ryan Fisher, the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army, said the global pandemic has not slowed the process by which private entities can get licensed through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate federal infrastructure.

“We’re having to do that stuff digitally, so we’re not losing time, just doing it differently,” he said. “We hope to push through hydropower projects where they make sense.”

Trump on fracking, Biden and solar

Trump has sought to make his push for “energy dominance” a central contrast between himself and Biden. Yesterday, he cited his decisions to sign cross-border permits for the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

He repeated his inaccurate claim that Biden wants to ban hydraulic fracturing, suggesting that such a stance would hurt the Democrat in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma and North Dakota — all energy-rich and, but for Texas, solidly red states. Biden has said he would ban new fracking on public land.

“They want to end everything we’ve done,” Trump said of Democrats who propose tackling climate change by investing in greener forms of energy. “I think they basically want to close up our country, because they are taking away our strength.”

The president also suggested there is “no such thing” as a source of alternative energy good enough to replace conventional fossil fuels. He said that he loves solar energy but called it “very, very heavily expensive” — a charge that renewable advocates have said is untrue, noting drops in solar costs in recent years.

Several polls suggest a close race for Biden and Trump in battleground states, but the president insisted yesterday that Biden’s energy plan would not sell in Texas.

“George Washington could come back from the dead, and he could choose as his VP candidate the late, great Abraham Lincoln, and you’re not going to win the state of Texas if you have no oil, no guns and no religion,” Trump said.