Early reactions to the DOE grid reliability study

The much anticipated, objected to, lobbyied about, editorialized on US Department of Energy study on electric grid reliability, markets, and policy has finally been released. Finally us commenters will actually know what we are talking about.

Maybe.

You can find the report on the DOE website along with Secretary Perry’s cover letter.

I may comment later. Meanwhile, some early reactions from around the web.

RTO Insider, “Perry Grid Study Seeks to Aid Coal, Nuclear Generation.”

Virtually all the trends it cites and the issues it raises have been under discussion for months or years at FERC, in state legislatures and at grid operator stakeholder meetings. What is new are some of the policy recommendations, which reflect the Trump administration’s support of the coal industry and its rejection of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The report cites Executive Order 13783, saying that while the Energy Department is not specifically named in the order, the department “should continue to prioritize energy dominance” and that it and other federal agencies “should accelerate and reduce costs” for licensing “nuclear, hydro, coal, advanced generation technologies and transmission.

The Hill, “Energy Dept. report aims to boost coal, nuclear power.”

The highly anticipated Department of Energy (DOE) report does not include sweeping policy proposals, but it does recommend that the department encourage federal energy and environmental regulators to take more steps to support coal, nuclear and hydroelectric power.

The DOE report also supports conducting more research into the integration of renewable power into the electric grid, but it doesn’t take aim at state or federal policies that have helped wind and solar power grow.

Utility Dive, “DOE releases highly anticipated grid study, faults natural gas for baseload retirements.”

The final grid study conclusion — that low natural gas prices are the biggest driving factor for most, if not all, baseload power plant retirements — probably won’t surprise anyone in the power sector. Indeed, there appear to be very few surprises contained in the official draft of grid study, as many of its conclusions have already been widely documented and published by grid operators, national labs and other key stakeholders.

Joe Romm*, ThinkProgress, “Trump officials rewrite Energy Dept. study to make renewables look bad, fail anyway.”

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s long-awaited grid study is finally out. But while Trump officials clearly tried to rewrite the previously leaked staff draft to give the impression that renewable energy sources are a threat to baseload power and grid resilience, they mostly botched the job….

Not only were renewables not a major factor in coal and nuclear retirements, but the final DOE study also concludes that the grid is more reliable than ever. It’s just not as blunt about it as the draft was.

David Roberts, Vox, “Rick Perry and his own grid study are saying very different things.”

It turns out, leaking the draft was a smart move on some staffer’s part. It makes a before-and-after comparison easy, so interference at the political level is simple to discern.

That forced transparency seems to have restrained the hand of political appointees at DOE friendly to coal and nuclear. To be sure, the report has been changed. Some baseload-friendly language has been added and the straightforward conclusion about reliability I quoted above is gone. A few coal-friendly policy recommendations were added. It’s definitely been massaged.

But the bones of the analysis remain the same and still indicate the same conclusion: There’s no reason in the world to keep coal plants open and only one reason to keep nuclear plants open — climate change, which the report never mentions.

Thomas Pyle**, Institute for Energy Research, “IER Statement on Department of Energy Grid Report.”

The DOE grid study is a solid examination of the challenges that lie ahead in order to ensure the reliability, affordability, resiliency, and diversity of our electricity system.

The report rightly acknowledges the problems created by a deepening penetration of variable renewable energy … Specifically, government-guided increases in solar power penetration reduce the grid’s capacity to meet peak demand, as the DOE report indicates.

The report also highlights the distortionary role that policies such as the wind production tax credit (PTC) play in electricity markets. As explained in the report, policies such as the PTC are contributing factors in the premature retirement of baseload power plants across the country.

NOTES

*Joe Romm worked in the DOE during President Clinton’s second term.

**Thomas Pyle headed President Trump’s transition team on energy issues.

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One thought on “Early reactions to the DOE grid reliability study

  1. Dear Michael,

    Thanks for another timely post.

    This is a complement to my August 11, 2017, comment to your post “Utahns get low-cost, reliable electric power. What is wrong with that?” It is based on my August 24, 2017, post “A strategy of trajectory is required to transform the energy sector ( http://bit.ly/TWOG114 ).”

    Just like that of Utahns, what’s wrong with DOE grid reliability study is that it has been done under a strategy of terrain (the future is a continuation of the past). Such a strategy is “missing the observable fact of the strong influence of the #ComputingBigShift (the future was unprecedented until recently).”

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