Solar and wind power weren’t singled out for impacting grid reliability in the official version of the Department of Energy’s grid reliability report, which was finally released last night (Aug. 23). It was feared that the report could be an attempt by the Trump (R) Administration to go on a witch hunt against renewable energy in support of coal and fossil fuels.
The “Staff Report to the Secretary on Electricity Markets and Reliability,” was ordered by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in April as a 60-day review. A draft of the report surfaced earlier this year in which wind and solar weren’t maligned as industry supporters were afraid of and it appears the same is true in the final, which appeared about 2 months later than expected.
In his cover letter Perry stated that the energy industry has experienced massive changes recently “and government has failed to keep pace.” He added, “This report examines the evolution of markets that has occurred over the last fifteen years. Policy makers and regulators should be making decisions based on what the markets look like today, not what they looked like years ago.” It looks like renewable energy is now part of the decision making process and here to stay.
“We appreciated the fact that the department took our feedback on the study into account,” said Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President Abigail Ross Hopper. “We and our partner organizations were assertive in taking steps to mitigate damage that could have been inflicted by this study. The alarm bells were going off when I heard Energy Secretary Rick Perry say in a speech at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s annual conference in New York in April that he felt policy makers needed to put their ‘thumb on the scale’ to support coal and nuclear baseload.”
Rather, “The report said a combination of market and policy forces have accelerated the closure of a significant number of coal and nuclear plants and may potentially harm grid reliability and resilience,” Hopper stated. “The report did not, however, lay the demise of coal at the feet of renewable energy, and that is an important finding.”
The report also found that the evolving electric grid is challenging electricity markets and their major electric generators like coal and nuclear. It said that the low costs of natural gas, regulation and mandates at both the federal and state level, variable renewable energy—such as wind and solar and low growth in electric demand, were the key factors in the demise of more expensive generation from coal and nuclear plants.
The report, SEIA observed, suggested some reasons for keeping coal and nuclear plants online despite the fact they are becoming more expensive to operate than wind and solar. But it also found that there is a need to ensure wholesale electricity markets are compensating energy resources for a variety of attributes, like wind and solar power.
“The report also says our job growth can’t make up for the job losses in coal. But in other places, the study talks about the huge impact that lower cost solar panels have had in driving renewables growth,” Hopper said.
“We will be keeping a close eye on how this study is used and how the department couches the report conclusions, but I wanted you all to hear from us about our view of the study. We do not think it will change much in terms of policy for good or ill,” Hopped stated. “We are encouraged that the conversation about solving challenges with wholesale markets has been initiated and we look forward to participating in that discussion.”Tweet