Energy Secretary Rick Perry has ordered a study of the US electric grid, complaining that it is “losing its diversity” even as it adds wind, solar, geothermal and fancy new batteries. Even though this has created thousands of jobs in new industries, he says the opposite is happening in his memo:
Specifically, many have questioned the manner in which baseload power is dispatched and compensated. Still others have highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation's electric generation mix, and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience. This has resulted in part from regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation. Such policies have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and they threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future. Finally, analysts have thoroughly documented the market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others. Those subsidies create acute and chronic problems for maintaining adequate baseload generation and have impacted reliable generators of all types.
Many are outraged, thinking that this will be an attack on renewables. Yet Chris Mooney of the Washington Post suggests they might be over-reacting, noting “even this seemingly dull inquiry has stirred controversy” because Trump. He quotes a Bush administration EPA official who “said he thought critics might be over-interpreting the Perry memo as a slam against renewables.”
That was so yesterday. Today Perry appointed a certain Travis Fisher to lead the study. According to Hannah Northey at E&E News, Fisher is a political appointee at the Department of energy who previously worked with “the Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit energy think tank that advocates "free-market" energy and environmental policy.” He also tweeted about it; I copy some here. Northey quotes some of his op-eds in The Hill:
Fisher warned that the U.S. EPA clean air rules posed a threat to coal-fired power plants, and that the agency was "coming after" gas plants as anti-nuclear activists threatened reactor closures. "These closings pose a serious threat to the grid as we know it," Fisher wrote. "Forcing reliable sources of energy off the grid will only increase the risk of blackouts and raise electricity prices for households across America.
"But excessive regulation isn't the only issue facing the grid," Fisher continued. "Other policies undermine our electric system by subsidizing unreliable sources of power like wind and solar, which provided around 4 percent of our electricity generation last year. Subsidizing unreliable generation while wiping out reliable sources is a huge gamble — a real-time experiment to see whether or not we can keep the lights on."
Sounds like a setup, and that this report is going to be a slam against renewables after all.