The solar industry may only have 60 days to prove it’s not destroying the electric supply of the United States, or Energy Secretary Rick Perry will start dismantling its federal infrastructure, returning the United States to its rightful place as the world’s leading 19th century energy producer.
Reports out of Washington say Perry, who oversaw enormous growth in the wind industry in the oil-producing state of Texas while governor, has initiated a 60-day review of federal policies that support renewable energy, with an eye toward bolstering the myth that solar produces an unstable grid.
It probably goes without saying, but solar industry could save taxpayers money on the study by pointing out the following real-world examples of countries in the midst of aggressive transitions to renewable energy
- Denmark has the highest portion of wind and solar in its electricity supply of any nation on earth. It also has the most 2nd-most stable grid in Europe, behind Luxembourg.
- U.S. residents spend fourteen times as much time without electricity than the Danes.
- Germany, one of the world’s most progressive countries on renewable energy and an early solar leader, also has a far more stable grid than the United States.
- It is easier for grid operators to plan for shifts in wind and solar output, which can usually be predicted with forecasting, than planning for large power plants like nuke plants going down unexpectedly.
As of press time, however, it’s unclear whether Perry has asked the solar industry for its input, but suffice to say it’s unlikely someone will need to sit by a phone waiting for a call any time soon.
Bloomberg News obtained a copy of the memo Perry sent to his chief of staff on Friday commissioning the study, in which he wrote:
“We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric, all of which provide affordable baseload power and contribute to a stable, reliable and resilient grid. But in recent years, grid experts have highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.”
Later in the memo, Perry said he wanted his chief of staff to figure out what regulatory burdens, subsidies and tax policies are forcing the “premature” closing of coal plants across the country, including the implementation of state-level renewable energy policies (often known as renewable portfolio standards or renewable energy standards) that require utilities to purchase some portion of of their electricity from renewable sources.
The study is part of an overall effort by the Trump Administration to remove regulations it says harm U.S. businesses and keeps corporations from hiring more people. Each federal department is undergoing a similar review.
Even if Perry finds that solar is eroding baseload electricity production in the country and creating grid instability (if it’s an honest study, it won’t), utilities around the country may pay little or no attention. In November, a report released today by SNL Energy, a subsidiary S&P Global Market Intelligence, most U.S. utilities said they would still close coal-fired generation plants to the tune of 20.5 TWh in 2017 alone.
And while the Trump Administration has found it politically useful to perpetuate the myth that renewable energy is killing the coal industry, the portion of U.S. electricity from coal has been declining for over a decade, as the nation moves from coal to gas generation.