Perry’s claims about reliability of renewables immediately debunked by regulator

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US energy secretary says “baseload” coal is critical to functioning of the grid. Energy regulator says that is “absolutely not” the case.

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks at the 2017 EIA energy conference in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2017, as conference host, EIA acting administrator Howard Gruenspecht, sits at right
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Think Progress

According to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the Obama administration demonstrated a hostility to coal and a preference for renewable energy that is threatening the reliability of the U.S. power grid — although Perry’s concerns were immediately undercut by one of the nation’s top grid regulators.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks at the 2017 EIA energy conference in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2017, as conference host, EIA acting administrator Howard Gruenspecht, sits at right
Energy Secretary Rick Perry speaks at the 2017 EIA energy conference in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2017, as conference host, EIA acting administrator Howard Gruenspecht, sits at right

Perry, speaking at the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s annual energy conference in Washington, D.C., said that under his leadership the Department of Energy will do what it can to ensure baseload generating capacity, such as coal and nuclear power, “is not tossed aside in the name of some political favorite.”

To that end, “I’ve asked the staff of the Department of Energy to undertake a critical review of regulatory burdens placed by the previous administration on baseload generators,” Perry said.

“Baseload power is critical to a well-functioning grid. … But over the last several years, grid experts have expressed concern about the erosion of critical baseload resources.”

Colette Honorable, a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said in a presentation immediately after Perry’s that the introduction of greater amounts of renewable energy has “absolutely not” harmed grid reliability.

Recent history shows that large amounts of renewables have been successfully integrated into regional grids across the nation, Honorable said. “I have seen no problems with reliability,” she said. “Bring on more renewables.” FERC regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity and oversees the operation of almost all of the nation’s regional power grids.

For his grid study, Perry requested DOE investigate how federal subsidies boost one form of energy at the expense of baseload generation. He specifically 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.”

Several Democratic senators called the request for the grid reliability study “a thinly disguised attempt to promote less economic electric generation technologies, such as coal and nuclear, at the expense of cost-competitive wind and solar power.”

A draft of the study, originally slated for completion this week, is scheduled to be submitted to Perry in early July, Axios reported last week.

Honorable, who tweeted on Monday that this is her last week as a FERC commissioner, told reporters after her presentation that her agency has been in touch with the DOE staff who are working on the grid reliability study.

“We have offered to be supportive of them. And we’ve provided them with publications and other information,” she said. “We carry out this work every day. And we look forward to helping the new administration at DOE understand and grapple with these challenges.”

During his speech, Perry attacked energy regulation using the same language as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), who spoke at the conference on Monday.

Walden warned that Congress and the administration need to make sure “whoever has the strongest lobby force doesn’t end up putting too big of a federal thumb on the scale when it comes to competition.”

Perry, in his comments, stated that “no reasonable person can deny the thumb or even the whole hand” has “been on the scale in favor of certain political outcomes.”

Later in the day, Perry participated in a White House press briefing in which he repeated many of the points he made at the EIA conference, including highlighting President Donald Trump’s goal of making the United States “energy dominant.”

Perry’s controversial statements about climate change also caused a stir at the conference. Last Monday, asked in an interview on CNBC whether he believed carbon dioxide was “the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate,” Perry said: “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Two climate protesters interrupted Perry’s speech. One of the protesters, Georgetown University student Elena Itameri, stood up and asked Perry why he believes oceans drive climate change when almost every climate scientist disagrees with him.

“After I heard the statements he made last week about oceans driving climate change, that didn’t quite add up with all the research I’ve done and with all the education I’ve received on the topic. Living in D.C., I wanted to confront one of our officials on what he had to say because these are statement that can’t go unquestioned,” Itameri told ThinkProgress after security escorted her out of the hotel where the conference was being held.

Itameri, who studies human rights and sustainability and hopes to become an environmental attorney, said the “political climate right now is something that has pushed me to be more proactive.” Her statements directed at Perry were the first time she had ever interrupted an official’s speech.

“Oceans are heating up because humans are producing more carbon that goes into the atmosphere, which then in turn heat the oceans,” she said. “If it weren’t for the oceans, we’d be in a much worse situation at this point.”

After the protesters were escorted out of the room, Perry defended his position on climate change, saying, “It is okay for us to ask questions, to be skeptical about information.” The government should “dig into this a little deeper” and “find the other side” on the climate issue, he said.

Scientists have concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are driving climate change.

Source: Think Progress. Reproduced with permission.

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6 Comments
  1. john 2 years ago

    Perry did his best to put up his argument that the best energy outcome for America is coal as well it has been what he grew up with however it turns out that this new fangled wind and solar and concentrated solar is just a little bit cheaper and gasp is actually going to be the way a technological country will move.

    • LL 2 years ago

      Sorry Perry was right

      TonyfromOz
      June 29, 2017 at 2:48 pm · Reply
      Okay then, let’s talk insolation, because that’s what this is all about.

      Insolation is the amount of light falling on those panels to generate power in each of those individual solar cells, and there’s usually 72 individual cells to make up a solar panel, the more cells, the larger the output of that panel.

      When the Sun is directly overhead, the cells generate their maximum, so as the Sun rises, and then falls, the cells generate less.

      Also, there is a difference between Summer and Winter, again due to the angularity of the light falling on the panels, in much the same way as that angle differs as the Sun Rises and falls.

      Now, that maximum is usually at a single point during the middle of the day, but it’s curved, and the whole insolation period during the day looks similar to a bell curve, so zero just before the Sun rises and after it sets, and then rising during the morning and falling after that peak.

      Okay, this Thread mentions dust etcetera subtracting from the maximum insolation, hence power generation.

      Let me say here, that even the most pristine, cleanest perfect panel will NEVER generate its maximum, and you might think that where I say ….. never, that’s pretty definitive.

      As an example, I’ll show you actual insolation curves for a (relatively) large scale solar power system, and this is the one at UQ.

      What I have done here is to pick the best ones I could find for both Summer and Winter, not all that easy really as in Summer, you’ll only get around 10 or twelve days where it’s as good as this, and similar in Winter, also around 10 to 12 day where it is at best, with no overcast at all during the day, because any overcast, even a cloud flitting across the face of the Sun detracts significantly from the total power being generated, and after passing generation takes time, (albeit small) to build up again.

      Okay then, this link shows a best case Summer insolation curve, 24Jan2017. Power generation starts around 5.30 and ends at around 6.30. Note the curve up and down to the maximum of 4766KW at around midday, but it’s at its best from around 10AM till 2PM. http://solar.uq.edu.au/user/reportPower.php?dts=2017-01-24&dtra=day&rds=1

      Okay, now look at the left of the image with the informational data and see that this system has a maximum power rating of 5796KW, so that means this good day, the power generation was only 82% of maximum rated power. Note the best day was only 5243KW, and that’s 90%, and if you click on it, you’ll see it was an overcast day, probably with some rain to clean the panels to their best, hence a little higher generation, but still only 90%.

      This second link shows a best case Winter insolation curve, 29Jul2016. Start time 6.45AM stop time 5.15PM. Similar looking bell curve, and the maximum is at around Midday again, this case 3739KW, which is 65% of maximum, with the best generation between 10AM and 2PM. http://solar.uq.edu.au/user/reportPower.php?dts=2016-07-29&dtra=day&rds=1

      Okay now, keeping that in mind, let’s then look at the Jacobs Report, which Finkel based his assumptions on.

      That is at this link, and it’s a pdf document. https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/1d6b0464-6162-4223-ac08-3395a6b1c7fa/files/emissions-mitigation-policies.pdf

      Once at that link, scroll down to the top of page 31, and you’ll see their version of those Summer and Winter insolation curves.

      Not how both curves look nothing like ….. real insolation curves, rising almost vertically to 100% in Winter and staying there from 10AM till 2PM, and in Summer, similar, staying at 100% for almost nine freaking hours.

      These insolation curves are so far divorced from reality, that they are positively laughable.

      People actually believe this stuff without even bothering to go and check.

      This is what future power generation requirements get based on.

      It will not happen.

      Tony. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/261e056a4f8628632e6d9ee32a8f3b22b6912da6e76cfa0f627fed330ab491b6.jpg

  2. Michael Gunter 2 years ago

    The technical evidence is that baseload is “a thing”. Baseload is real! It is inevitable that aggregate energy usage patterns for us urban humans vary on daily, weekly and yearly cycles, then vary/spike again for special events such as half-time on AFL Grand Final Day, heatwaves, etc.

    Baseload is just the typical minimum system demand on a typical diurnal cycle within a region. Whether it is provided by baseload coal, baseload nuclear or baseload #PHES is immaterial to the average citizen, who just wants the lights to stay on 24/7 irrespective of how many useless inefficient “entertainment” or totally discretionary activities that he/she simultaneously engages/indulges in.

    One plausible reason for North American spin doctors apparently defining “baseload” to mean “Electric power provided by the incumbents at night” is economic: the REAL “baseload” they are referring to is their sunk CapEx which they will LIE, CHEAT and BRIBE about, to ensure it does not get prematurely stranded. What they gain by utterly confusing us about the essential nature of real electric baseload is to extend their asset life i.e. delay the #DeathSpiral of dirty nuclear, filthy coal and not-so-clean petromethane power, thus forestalling the necessary renewables revolution.

    …so it is refreshing to learn that the new AEMO boss Audrey Zibelman is stirring things up talking about #negawatts. though the AEMO report seems to have overlooked the role for the MANDATORY 8 million solar water heater retrofits in Oz to store ~0.3Peta-Joules every evening. (~80GWh/night, another ~2 Hazelwoods worth of CO2 emissions reductions, and clearly a baseload competitor against coal and petromethane, unlike the PVs you may have on your roof!! 🙂 )

    • neroden 2 years ago

      Baseload is an artificial construct. Indeed, you can take the energy demand graph and look at the minimum value and call it baseload.

      That doesn’t mean you need a “baseload power plant” to provide that. It can be the minimum average output of dozens of wind farms, or of dozens of wind farms plus batteries, or whatever.

      • Michael Gunter 2 years ago

        batteries are great behind the meter for deep resilience within communities, if customers ensure full autonomy during blackouts, and full islanding capability whenever they may choose.

        utility-scale batteries have a great role for short term ancillary services such as FCAS.

        The “whatever” seems a bit dismissive given the social chaos and electoral death that awaits politicians who cannot keep the lights on. I don’t know what an independent, objective costing of PHES vs CST+hot_salt would declare as the winner for bulk TWh of energy storage but it sure as hell isn’t batteries….. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1839a5672b97389b76c5d1a2d932b248cd9d3096dc9bdb2c1af906bcdce14bfe.png

  3. Michael Gunter 2 years ago

    “overlaying technical jargon with socially constructed values is not particularly helpful” said Graham Palmer at

    https://georgejetson.org/2017/06/29/the-nrdc-baseload-twitter-storm/

    “not particularly helpful”? — I would go further and say that it can cause catastrophic delay when exploited by some vested interests (incumbents) in the context of a #ClimateEmergency. #GreehouseMafia’s weasel words can kill 7.5 billion people…..

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