Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s new grid study is filled with buried treasure, including the solution to enabling very deep renewable energy penetration: The future is smart control systems and electric cars.
The study was intended to find out if renewable energy is jeopardizing the nation’s power grid and causing coal-fired and nuclear power plants to close. Perry ordered the report to support the case he’d been making that renewables were harming the grid.
As it turns out, though, the recent sharp increase in renewable penetration doesn’t harm grid reliability or flexibility — which is in fact higher than ever — but it does offer major benefits.
Renewables were at most a minor contributor to the shutdown of baseload coal and nuclear power plants in recent years — the real culprit was cheaped fracked gas and the fact that many of those plants were 60 or 70 years old.
And buried deep in the report is the fact that renewables help stabilize prices and make Americans’ electricity bills more manageable.
The report also explains that a source of grid flexibility in the future (if it’s needed because of much deeper renewable penetration) would be “smart charging” plug-in electric vehicles. Utilities could use these to balance out electricity demand and generation:
An aggregated fleet of vehicles or chargers can act as a [demand response] resource, shifting load in response to price signals or operational needs; for example, vehicle charging could be shifted to the middle of the day to absorb high levels of solar generation and shifted away from evening hours when solar generation disappears and system net load peaks.”
DOE’s national labs are researching this possibility, and one European utility is already doing it.
ThinkProgress. Reproduced with permission