Senator Chuck Grassley questions DOE grid reliability study

The ideological extremity of the Trump Administration, including the appointment of close allies of the fossil fuel industry to key posts and widespread denial of Climate Change, has been polarizing for America. Under such circumstances, it can be easy to forget that renewable energy is not a partisan issue.

However, this week we got another reminder that the electrons generated from solar and wind are not Republican or Democrat. The latest voice to express concern about U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposed study of the role of renewable energy in the retirement of “baseload” coal and nuclear plants and grid reliability is none other than Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has sent a sharply worded letter to the secretary.

Senator Grassley’s letter expresses several concerns. Namely, he argues that the study appears to “pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability” and that such a study will not be seen as credible and will be a waste of taxpayer resources.

Grassley also notes that this study is being done on a compressed timeline. The deadline for the study is mid-June, which he contrasts to a similar study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) which took two years to complete.

But he did not stop there. Grassley asked a series of five questions, regarding which grid operators would assist with the study, whether or not a contractor would be hired, how much it would cost and whether the report would take input from stakeholders.

Such requests are in line with similar requests from a coalition of four clean energy trade groups, including Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), which have called for a transparent process.

pv magazine has not heard that these groups to date have received any response to this request.

While an increasing number of Republicans are making policy in favor of solar and wind at the state level, Grassley’s role as a renewable energy advocate has been a contrast to the majority of his fellow Republicans in congress. But being outnumbered has not prevented him from challenging both President Trump and former Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney on the issue of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind.

And while Donald Trump’s statements on energy policy have been mostly pro-fossil fuel mythology, during the presidential election Grassley said that Trump would eliminate the PTC “over my dead body”.

Senator Grassley has good reason to back renewable energy. As noted in the letter, wind represented 36% of Iowa’s electricity generation in 2016, and has been a source of both job creation and cheap electricity for the state, without sacrificing reliability.

Grassley also notes that this is something that former Texas Governor Perry should be familiar with, as Texas has deployed more wind than any other U.S. state.