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

Andrew Cummings
April 18, 2017

In an April 14 memo obtained by Bloomberg News, Perry outlines his concerns over the "erosion of resources providing "baseload power"- In other words, coal and nuclear power".

Secretary Rick Perry had ordered his Department of Energy to conduct a study on the United States' electricity grid to determine whether renewable sources of energy have jeopardized baseload power.

The 60-day study is to assess current regulations, subsidies, and tax policies to ascertain the degree to which they are "responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants". However, he adds that experts have "highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation's electric generation mix and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience".

The review comes as a number of states move to subsidize baseload generation, particularly nuclear plants, that can not compete with cheap natural gas and renewable energy in wholesale power markets. When he talks about reliability, he points to a supposed intermittence in generation from sources such as wind and solar.

Perry also tasks the study group with considering whether wholesale energy markets properly value the contribution of coal and nuclear plants to grid resilience, due to their ability to store fuel onsite.

President Barack Obama and other previous administrations implemented regulations that were created to decrease coal-fired power generation, Perry wrote.

The grid study comes just days after the G-7 Energy Ministerial meeting in Rome, where Perry said he and global counterparts discussed the need for a diverse supply of electricity.

Conservatives - including some advising the Trump administration - have long taken aim at subsidies for renewable power, including a recently renewed production tax credit that helps offset the cost of wind and solar installations.

Last year marks the seventh consecutive year that NV Energy has surpassed the state's renewable energy mandate.

The head of the Department of Energy wants to know if all of those renewable energy policies cropping up around the country are guilty of hastening the demise of coal and nuclear. Perry called those policies "market-distorting". Greens have cheered the arrival of wind and solar power without thinking through what these renewables are going to do to grid stability.

Both New York and IL have approved zero-emission credits that would subsidize certain nuclear power plants and keep them running despite stiff competition from plants burning cheap natural gas. 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.

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