When Energy Secretary Perry sent out a memo on April 14 calling for a study into the decline of coal and nuclear “baseload” power and the reliability of the grid, we at pv magazine were the first to express the concern that this study would be used as disingenuous means to attack renewable energy.
Call us paranoid if you like. Perhaps it is that the Trump Administration has been appointing under-qualified individuals with strong relationships to the fossil fuel industry to every significant position that would have a role in energy policy, renewable energy or even environmental policy that affects energy. Or perhaps it has been the public statements on energy by President Trump and Secretary Perry, which have consistently been based upon a mythology instead of facts.
Or perhaps it was the language of the memo itself, which conflates baseload power with reliability.
pv magazine, it seems, has not been alone in this concern. On April 28, four renewable and advanced energy industry organizations: Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary Perry, calling for him to make his review public and open to input from grid operators, state regulators, industry and other key stakeholders.
Yesterday these four organizations took a further step by sending Secretary Perry briefing papers referencing a range of reports that have shown that reliability can be maintained with high penetrations of renewable energy. The briefing paper from SEIA includes references to 12 reports, five of which were authored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL), which Perry now oversees.
“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,” stated a joint letter.
Many of these reports are the same ones that pv magazine has recommended that Secretary Perry read before conducting this inquiry into the electric grid. They include NREL’s Western Wind and Solar Integration Study and Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study, which have shown that U.S. grids can easily get more than 1/3 of their electricity from wind and solar with some transmission investments and improved operational practices, without sacrificing reliability.
Like pv magazine, the industry groups have shown concern over the “faulty premise” in Secretary Perry’s report. And despite his not being a scientist or engineer like previous Energy Secretaries, Perry should know better.
“We are concerned that the scope of the report appears to be based on a faulty premise – a premise contrary to the experience in your home state of Texas – that renewable generation is responsible for the retirement of coal and nuclear generation resources, and that the loss of those resources will lead to declining reliability of the grid,” reads the letter.
It remains to be seen what influence these reports will have on the actions of an administration that has coined the term “alternative facts” and shown an active hostility not only to science, but evidence-based decision making.