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Rick Perry targets wind, solar after overseeing renewables explosion in Texas

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Think Progress

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Energy Secretary Rick Perry, center speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn’t mention renewable energy by name. But his request for the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate how federal subsidies boost one form of energy at the expense of baseload generation was clearly meant as a swipe at wind and solar energy resources.

In an April 14 memo to his chief of staff, a copy of which DOE provided to ThinkProgress, Perry directed the agency to look at the extent to which “continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.”

Perry previously served as governor of Texas where he led an expansion of renewable energy sources across the state. Texas leads the nation in wind-powered generation capacity with more than 18,500 megawatts, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

However, as a key member of the Trump administration, Perry will no longer be overseeing a national program comparable to Texas’ successful Competitive Renewable Energy Zones initiative that spurred the construction of electric transmission lines to connect with renewable energy facilities. Instead, the former Texas governor has been tasked by President Donald Trump with prioritizing fossil fuels and nuclear energy over renewables.

Perry wrote in the memo, first reported by Bloomberg, that the United States is “blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric.” These sources provide a “stable, reliable and resilient grid,” he explained. Nowhere in the memo did Perry list wind, solar, or energy storage as options for grid reliability.

New York State is putting up billions of dollars in subsidies to ensure the Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant, above, and other nuclear plants in the state remain open. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Groll

New York State is putting up billions of dollars in subsidies to ensure the Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant, above, and other nuclear plants in the state remain open. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mike Groll

President Barack Obama and other previous administrations implemented regulations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation, Perry wrote. “Such policies have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and they threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future,” he contended.

Perry wants his staff to provide him with an implementation plan for preparing the study by Wednesday, with a goal of completing the study within 60 days.

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) expressed confusion with DOE’s decision to launch a new study based on the premise that renewable energy policies are accelerating the decline of coal and nuclear plants, or somehow undermining grid resilience. Numerous studies have demonstrated otherwise, including a 2016 long-term reliability assessmentfrom the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, ACORE noted.

“The reality today is that renewable power offers the only realistic economic alternative to natural gas,” ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone said in an emailed statement. “Together, renewables like wind and solar have combined with natural gas to produce virtually all of the nation’s major new electrical capacity since 2014. The fact is that low natural gas prices have made coal and nuclear less competitive economically.”

In Texas, Perry saw how well the grid can work with high levels of renewable energy generation, Wetstone added.

In the memo, Perry also called for DOE to examine whether wholesale energy and capacity markets are adequately compensating attributes such as on-site fuel supply and other factors that could strengthen grid resilience and the extent to which continued “regulatory burdens,” as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.

The integration of a diversity of generating resources into the nation’s electric grid has been a hot topic at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as at regional transmission organizations. Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz made electric grid resiliency a top priority during Obama’s second term in office, capping off his tenure at DOE with the January release of a comprehensive look at the nation’s electric grid.

Source: ThinkProgress. Reproduced with permission.

  

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  • Chris Fraser

    When oil and gas were the only game in town, it seemed right that petroleum companies got tax discounts for prospecting ang production costs. But now there is new technology which is competitive, efficient and above all, popular. New technologies seem to be propagating themselves without the same extent of subsidy. Suddenly, only now it seems that the tax incentives have become ‘regulatory burdens’. It’s got to be an excuse to claw back more tax from everybody in the energy game.

    • Alastair Leith

      And the Climate thing which was wiped off the white house website within hours of Trumps inauguration.

    • Robert Engle

      I disagree with this. When they were the only game in town they could price their product to provide funds for expansion. Our favoring them meant more profits and less pressure to change.

  • Mark Potochnik

    Dear Europe buy only from China. America has nothing!

    Same for Asia. Same for Africa. Same for the rest of the world.
    Screw America.They don’t want your business!

  • Miles Harding

    Prioritising nuclear is a clear winner for TRump.

    See this story for the good news:
    http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-power-lobbyists-freaked-crisis-deepens-22759/

  • Adam Lucas

    Perry is severely intellectually challenged and was never a friend of renewables, despite the gains made by wind power in Texas, which are really remarkable. Wind and solar advocates had to build their case and portfolios with no subsidies from the state government. Austin and San Antonio have led the way with progressive local government policies to drive solar, but the love of fossil fuels runs very deep throughout the rest of the Republic of Texas, so no surprise the Don recruited Perry for the job of chief fossil monger.

  • nakedChimp

    When you think you’ve seen it all..

  • Mike Dill

    While Perry has asked a for information on tax and subsidy issues, he may be very surprised to find that nearly all the subsidies and tax advantages are already going to the baseload.

    New wind and solar can beat coal and oil on a level playing field without any subsidies. Storage will take a few years….

    • Alastair Leith

      Storage is pretty damn close on some jobs like resilience and ultra fast frequency response, which reduces the need for heavier FFR because it can nip shifts in the bud and reduce frequency nadir. Gen IV wind turbines also going to be in the mix for ancillary services if there’s contracts going for those and several modelling studies show big US grids are *more* resilient with modern gen IV Wind with FR technology than fossil only.

      If it’s facts Perry wants, he’s not going to like them. If the terms of reference are cooked then it’s a hatchet job he’s ordered. (A Yes Minister style enquiry perhaps 🙂 )

  • Alastair Leith

    When they find that batteries and gen IV wind turbines do grid resilience cheaper than coal and gas what they gonna do, hey?

  • Even with MASSIVE subsidies, nuclear power plants are coming in BILLIONS of dollars over budget. Just to look to the GA/SC region for the latest debacle: New nuke plants received $8.3 BILLION in loan guarantees to help finance the construction. Westinghouse declared bankruptcy on 3/29/17 due to cost overruns. Original cost estimates were $14B per reactor, but Morgan Stanley estimates final costs of $22 BILLION for SC plant, $19 BILLION for GA plant… Taxpayers are footing the bill in advance without any new power generation.

  • Robin_Harrison

    They have the same situation as Straya with a fed gov owned by the FF industry and states, at the coalface of energy distribution, seeing the economic benefits of RE and going for it. Saving money and not being robbed is remarkably contagious.