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.
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Seems like a legitimate area of inquiry. Particularly given the current problems maintaining frequency and voltage on the grid in Hawaii and the impending “duck curve” in California. Areas with deep penetration of renewable energy (especially distributed renewable energy) should expect a unique set of challenges.
Unfortunately, the national electrical T&D system simply wasn’t designed to have a bunch of energy resources out at the grid-edge. During this transition, there will be grid stability issues, service disruptions and renewable curtailment when the grid requires it. You can’t re-engineer the largest and most complex technology system in the world on-the-fly without some technical challenges. The DOE should totally examine this closely. This is going to be a hard transition and if it’s going to be successful it will require buy in from a variety of Federal agencies.
That said; just because it’s going to be hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. To paraphrase JFK, “We choose to decarbonize our energy production not because its easy, but because its hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win,”
Saying that the transition to renewable energy is technically challenging, and saying that adaptions need to be made is entirely different than investigating a threat to the security of supply. The security of supply is in no danger, and the nations that have either maintained extremely high levels of reliability or increased reliability while adding renewables are a testament to this.
Likewise curtailment, while a real concern, is not the same as a threat to the stability of the grid.
There is a large volume of technical work that NREL, IEA an other organizations have undertaken to study the technical challenges of integrating high levels of renewable energy, and a body of knowledge that has been produced about actual versus fictional challenges and issues. Such work is entirely different than this politically motivated and bogus reliability study that is being undertaken in an effort to bring our energy policy back to the 19th century.
You’re so last century dude. Solar and wind increase the electricity supply. If we have not developed the grid to accommodate it, then we need to get off our patoots and get er done.
This is really not that hard. Yes, wind and solar have a degree of (a) unpredictability, and (b) at least with respect to solar, certain hours of relatively guaranteed unavailability. Sources that can ramp up and down rapidly to fill in the gaps should be rewarded with some premium, and perhaps part of that premium should be supported by the variable sources they are helping out. Gas fired plants work out nicely for this job, as well as hydro sources and other storage technologies. No, gas isn’t carbon free, but CH4 + 2O2 -> 2H2H + 1CO2 is way less ugly per Joule than burning coal, which is pretty just all C. Hydro sources have, for example, typically been run to peak on summer afternoons when air conditioning demand is high, but this can be reversed, holding water back during the day when solar sources can carry the air conditioning load, and then releasing it at night when solar falls off. For pumped storage, it’s even better because excess daytime solar can provide the energy to do the pumping, effectively time-shifting the power (with some loss). Work to be done, but no fundamental new tech required…
Where I live all excess unused energy from wind is solar is pumped into the area grid systems, and it is done automatically . Owners are paid for this power and it increases the power available to the grid. Sounds to me like the old school coal,oil and gas producers see the end very close. They will all be buying alternate power stocks if not already, because their coal, oil, and gas will soon be worthless, with no one to buy them. Quit wasting our tax dollars on bullshit studies.
Then decentralize production and don’t depend on a centralized grid at all.
that’s not even how solar or electricity works. solar panels use whatever they can, then they can in your house, then if you have extra energy it gets pumped back into the grid and you get paid, whereas if you don’t use enough, then you take some from the grid. the real issue is updates that need to be made to the grid, like putting all lines underground.
With respect – “Seems like a legitimate area of inquiry.” would “seem” like a logical statement, and it would “seem” honest under normal circumstances – BUT these are not normal times and those who control government in America and who seek to do the same in the rest of the world too are not honest people. Those who offer such explanations are either playing into the hands of the Trump adminstration or are under their direct influence. If the people hear it often enough they will be convinced that ‘something’ is amiss with renewable energy and that it is not even renewable after all and that the sun does not supply a sufficiently reliable stream of energy and that the world in not spinning and that actually it is flat!
We do not choose to decarbonise out energy supplies because it is hard – we do it because we want to save the planet which is our only home – in whichever part of the globe we live! Get real America!
Trump and his entire cabinet have been eroding my BRAIN cells for the past 90 days. What’s next? is organic food disrupting Monsanto production? will clean water bankrupt bottled water producers? Let’s just finish contaminating every remaining organism on the planet in our air, water and food, so we are sure not to take away any of these good jobs.
You PG&E artificially has power outages from time to time. Just an excuse.
BULLSHIT. Perry himself said when he was given the office that he thought the job of energy secretary was to act as a kind of ambassador for the American fossil fuels industry. He’s a frigging Exxon shill and this “study” is a load of crap that will be used as a rationalization for removing environmental restrictions on oil drilling. It has no other purpose. Now go wipe the brown stuff off your nose and turn in your time card so you can be paid, astroturfer.
Hawaii’s electric grid issues is an outlier and shouldn’t be indicative of the state. The frequency issues stem from the fact in Hawaii its legal to sell your electricity back to HECO, and the instability is due because of it. It’s assumed that because electricity is 3.5 times more expensive than the mainland everyone who could afford it saddled up with panels that after five years pretty much pay for themselves and take your electric bills down to pennies per year. In return the island electric grids are for the most part self powered and because of it, there isn’t much profit for HECO to keep redundant power plants that run on oil or coal (and pollutes the surrounding area which is a huge concern due to the ecological fragility of each island) that requires to be shipped in with MASSIVE costs associated with it when 90% of the year they literally will not be used. So on cloudy and stormy days the grid drops because 14% of the grid’s businesses and residences are energy sufficient enough that they actually make money selling solar back to the grid and are now suddenly requiring power in addition to the entire grid taking a 14% generation hit.
These problems can be solved as soon as technology for cheaper batteries can be available so the price falls down to a level where homeowners can purchase batteries for home use that will give self sufficiency and can be charged during midday on sunny days when electric rates are some of the cheapest rates in the nation.
Hawaii’s grid is normally ludicrously overcharged and only requires new battery technology to compensate during their few “off” days. Considering politicians get voted out of office in HI if they even mentioning lowering or freezing the solar cap that is only put in place until battery tech can catch up along with the fact that pre-solar electric costs were .35c an hour in the ’90s you can see what a resounding success solar has been for the state.
Every transition is “hard”. The market advantages go to risk-takers and innovators, and this is where the Trump White House is so out of character with capitalist reality. They think it’s 1965, and they want America to stay that way. America can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t. The great divide we’re witnessing is entirely deliberate: Trump’s subsidizing and protecting obsolescence. It won’t work, but it will permit some foresighted companies and states to compete directly against the throwbacks and laggards. Believing this Administration is a business liability.
“(if it’s an honest study, it won’t)”. Honest study LOLOLOLOL. Authoritarians care nothing for honesty, be they oiligarchs like Perry or merely the rank and file tRümpenproletariat.
Our power gird has been a mess for decades because of the lack of infrastructure spending on it. It is amazing that it has held up this long while being neglected.
Renewable supplies are SUPPOSED to kill the dirtier, finite resources!
Then a follow up study on how much energy was wasted on this inane study.
Inane? Look at the problems south Australia is having with the whole grid going dark. You can’t just go renewable without a very extensive and expensive rework of the grid and you currently can’t start a grid from dark with only solar and wind energy.
That’s an odd assessment. First, the blackouts in South Australia were due to a variety of factors, and South Australia’s grid operator is saying that with the way that wind farms are now operated such a thing could not happen.
And I’m afraid that your statement that the necessary reworking of the grid to “go renewable” is very expensive is not supported by the academic literature.
I had hoped this was satire. God help us all.
What is scary is these people say it with a straight face and they are serious about it. I wonder how many people laughed out loud when Perry made these statements?
I agree. Rick Perry is so behind the times and in the pocket of fossil fuels. Don’t trust him …or many of Trump’s “people”. This country might be in big trouble
The study is has been ongoing since the rediscovery of windmills and the subsidization of solar panel development.
Government must let the market place make the decision. But to ensure a good decision the government must analyze and recommend, fully exposing the methodology and facts to support its recommendation as right, and demonstrate the analysis done and why no other conclusion is logical or true.
Thank God Rick Perry wasn’t Secretary of Transportation when Henry Ford created the automobile. We’d still be riding donkeys.
Ford didn’t create the automobile. Benz did. Ford just began manufacturing them on assembly lines.
I think his ‘concern’ is more politically motivated than anything else. After all, we are living in an administration that promotes ‘alternative facts’ like bold face lies…
Bravo – Rick Perry is a fool. DT has an Energy Sec who will soon have us all using whale oil lamps. It will be good for the economy and will create new jobs in a long extinct industry. It will likely not be good for the Whales – might even create a trade war with Japan?
It’s not satire. Its slanted toward an agenda.
Try an NPR version about renewables and their impact on the grid.
You can think of the NPR story as being about the impact of renewables on our grid, or as simply another sorry chapter in the decline of US infrastructure. The electrical grid needs work, whether we are moving to renewables or not. Let’s do the work – better spent than senseless fattening of our already-bloated military (just in case someone starts whining about “where we gonna get the money?”)
I find it interesting that instead of countering the very real examples that we have provided of nations with high levels of renewable energy and stable electrical grids, that you instead point to an interview with a woman whose primary point is that our grid is outdated (a point that we at pv magazine hardly dispute).
Perry’s witch hunt is about reliability and baseload generation. The truth is that we don’t need baseload on the grid. We need to meet electric demand, and as electricity demand fluctuates, that means we need flexible sources of power.
I think this issue was explained well by Chris Nelder: http://www.zdnet.com/article/why-baseload-power-is-doomed/
This is a joke, right? Satire? Please tell me it is!
For years we have been hearing from bragadocious blowhards about how great the state of Texas is. It is time the state put some of that hot air to use and develop the biggest, best, most efficient & productive renewable energy system. The energy from wind & sun is something you can’t “fence in,” but you can redirect it to the benefit of all. Then they would really have something to brag about.
Actually, Texas has very high levels of wind compared to other U.S. states, and got around 15% of its power from wind in 2016 (http://www.ercot.com/news/releases/show/113533). We are anticipating similar developments with solar by 2020.
A core support for both the wind expansion and the anticipated expansion of solar are the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), including the transmission to get this power from West and North Texas to cities in Central and East Texas. This was done by socializing the cost of these lines among all ratepayers.
So Texas really has done well with large-scale renewables. They’ve done so because the state’s actions do not always match the kind of free-market fundamentalism that is preached by its politicians.
Seriously. Ninety percent of the people commenting on this article have no idea what this study is about or why it is important to do it. Spend some time understanding the subject then comment. Every “green” energy producer I lnow agrees this needs to happen. I owned a company that installed geothermal heat pumps and inspected houses for energy efficiency for ten years. I worked heavily with Southface teaching people how to save energy and install solar panels. This is an important study that is very needed to go forward. Also it is business as usual. We have been doing these about every seven years no matter who the president is.
I beg to differ. There are a number of important studies that have been done on the impacts of solar and wind on the grid, by a variety of organizations around the world. I could point you in the direction of NREL, IEA, and MIT studies that look at high penetrations of solar and wind, none of which say that it will destabilize the grid, and none of which describe coal and other baseload plants as a necessary component of future grids.
From the leaked memo this is very clearly not a continuation of that important work, but instead a reliability witch hunt conducted by a president and an energy secretary which are tools of the fossil fuel industries, with the aim to send energy policy backward.
Why would you compare Denmark’so grid (country size of 16,000 square miles) to the USA’s (3.1 million square miles, excludes Hawait and Alaska)? Denmark is slightly bigger than Maryland. Compare all of Europe versus the US
Quite simply because Denmark is the nation with the highest portion of variable renewable energy (wind + solar) on the grid in the world. But there are many, many other examples I could use. The Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) has been running on 20% wind and around 5% solar for a number of years, with very limited interconnection. Germany also has relatively high penetrations of wind and solar. But no one has incorporated the portion of wind that Denmark has on a national level.
Christian is right about Denmark, Germany and Spain. They all have high penetration of renewables and correspondingly high electricity prices.
Denmark ~3.5 x US average
Germany ~3 x US average
Spain ~2.5 x US average
Our grid is old and outdated. Now is the time to redesign it more towards renewable energy sources and get away from dirty fossil fuels. Unfortunately Ricky and his band of cohorts can not seem to get their tiny little minds out of the 18′ th century type of thinking and bring us up to the 21’st century. These guys are way too greedy and can not think outside the box!
I used to think they said things like this, because they think we’re stupid. Alas, no. It’s them. They’re stupid.
Perhaps he would be better suited in another job such as village idiot.
Because coal is toxic to humans, thus they are shuttered.
Is PV like The Onion? It must be, right? Right??!
Texas A&M cheerleader gets out his pom poms for big oil! Yeah team! Hit em’ again, hard, harder, harder. We can beat science with money. Show them who’s the boss. Donald Trump, the man with no soul.
Those of us who’ve lived in Texas for any time and watched Perry know that he is a dolt. He, like most all the Republicans in Texas, is a whore for the fossil fuel industry. If he understands any of these energy issues, and that is subject to debate, then he is playing the calculated game to continue shilling for big oil. If he doesn’t really understand these issues on a technical or public policy level, he shouldn’t be in office.
I don’t know which is worse.
I think we need a study to determine how much Rick Perry disrupts the energy supply.
It amazes me. What was Trump thinking when he put together cabinet. Let me find the most uneducated, backward thinking, self indulging people and put them in my cabinet. I want to set America back 100 years within my 1st 100 days. He sure has tried his best to do this. The people, including #45, in his administration are Mental Midgets.
Can Perry become any less educated…I really want to say stupider. The quality of GOP in key positions in the administration is ASTONISHING!!!!! WHAT IS TO BECOME OF THE WORLD FOR ALL OUR CHILDREN? AS LONG AS dumpty Trumpty is in office we are all doomed.
Why doesn’t he stick to his original plan of eliminating this department and get out of the way of progress and a sustainable future.
So ricky boy has to kiss coal ass for ttrmp by doing a useless study that do nothing but be a talkpoint for coal lovers even if its false
The first and second comments from eric and Christian together hit the nail on the head. The biggest threat to our energy supply is not renewable sources, it’s a pile of regulations on top of an aging infrastructure, skewed by wealthy special interests, most of whom want to maintain the status quo. And they agree: it will be hard, but that’s a stupid (like, a Rick Perry level) reason not to improve.
In Italy the solar share in electricity supply has grown up to 8% on yearly average, with week-end summer days going almost 100% renewable, and the grid stability improved, since peak production in summer pretty well matches peak loads from air conditioning, both in time as in place. The only destabilization is that of investments in peaking gas plants…
This is another anti-progress witch hunt by the Trump administration and the fossil fuel companies who own him and his appointees.
Well first you must understand, Perry’s a IDIOT!!!!!
Solar is every day part of life. We all and everything on earth needs it The oil companies will try everything to keep the monopolies really do need us to agree NOT. Fracking is just a newer way
“How much of our limited fresh water is pumped back into the earth ” notice more earth quakes in those areas.
So I guess it comes down to the EPA. Not any more. Due to Trumps caring people in charge of said groups.
I guess the old add age says it right.
Money and Greed Talks….
Let those of us committed to sustainable power tell Sect’y Perry that we will be happy to go potty grid so our solar and wind production doesn’t undermine their precious and precarious grid.
I’d call him a moron, but he’d just take that as a compliment.
Rick Perry has long ago proven his lack of mental faculties.
One comment. You cant compare the US to teeny, tiny countries and expect us to have the same result.
Teeny, tiny countries like Germany, which has 80 million residents? And per scale, I’m afraid the physics of how a grid works doesn’t change whether you have a nation of 2 million or 320 million.
You can compare America to countries with high levels of renewable energy penetration, like Denmark and Germany. You can also follow their example and enjoy the benefits of their electricity prices (around 4x and 3x US averages, respectively).
Maybe the problem is with grid stability and management that’s a bit dated. Get with the program and stop wining.
Educating people that used to know what they were doing until it was “wrong”, plus educating the ones that will be right until “wrong” for the future is going to be frustrating. There are “dinosaurs” out there that manage to clutch, claw, and scrape smartphones and tablets after the four year olds show them how. ‘There are no buttons, levers, or gears.’ ‘Is this taking my picture?’ 😉
Coal? Does he still use dial up?
Someone needs to tell Mr. Perry that there aren’t enough glasses on the planet to make him look intelligent when he spouts crap like this.
Translation from Trumpspeak: “It’s making the profits of our Robber Barrons less stable.”
I cheered when “Good Hair Perry” was no longer the Governor of Texas. I had had about all of his buffoonary I could stomach. We were 46th to 49th in education when our Congressman Lloyd Doggett got Texas an $830,000,000 grant with the stipulation it had to be spent on public schools. Perry wouldn’t take it because of all the strings attached. He called it “Federal Overreach.” He wanted to put the money into the “Texas General Fund”(aka Perry’s slush fund) to be used wherever he thought Texas could best use it. I mean look, it’s an EDUCATIONAL GRANT! Where is it Federal Over-Reach saying you must put it into the public schools? Now he’s in charge of the Energy Department? Remember, that is the Department he couldn’t remember during his “Oops” moment during his Presidential Campaign.
We need to take a serious look at our grid and make the changes necessary to it to accommodate wind and Solar. If we do not work to develop this technology (wind and solar in the US then some day when the time finally comes where and who are we going to get it from? Germany, China, Denmark. The truth is that our desire for energy keeps growing and so does the population so we must also evolve with technology. I am a student studying Clean Energy Technology at a local community college in Washington state. We here battle renewable because we have lots of Hydro electric however many of those plants are aging for example the Grand Coulee Dam was constructed in the 1940’s and had a additional power house constructed in the 1970’s . We keep relying on old technology its time for the US to embrace and this technology instead of fighting it.
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