Renewable Energy Groups Push Back Against Rick Perry’s Controversial Grid Study

The secretary of energy has suggested that renewables undermine grid reliability. Clean energy trade groups argue the opposite.

Wind power and power lines
Groups representing wind, solar and other parts of a clean energy industry that supports over 3 million jobs are pushing to have their voices heard in U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry's power grid review. Credit: Lee Celano/AFP/Getty

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The renewable energy industry is asking Energy Secretary Rick Perry to open up a major agency review to public scrutiny, saying the review is based on the faulty idea that renewable energy undermines the reliability of the electrical grid.

In a letter Tuesday, four renewable energy trade groups said they were disappointed that the Department of Energy had closed its review to input from “the industry, grid operators, state regulators, and other key stakeholders.” The groups—Advanced Energy Economy, American Council on Renewable Energy, American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association—also submitted their own arguments that renewable energy is making the American power supply more reliable, not less.

In April, Perry ordered the DOE to conduct a 60-day review of grid reliability, suggesting in his memo that renewable energy was to blame for an “erosion of critical baseload resources.”

“This has resulted in part from regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation,” Perry wrote in the April 14 memo. “Such policies have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and they threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future.”

The industry groups wrote to Perry on Tuesday that they are “concerned that the scope of the report appears to be based on a faulty premise—a premise contrary to the experience in your home state of Texas—that renewable generation is responsible for the retirement of coal and nuclear generation resources, and that the loss of those resources will lead to declining reliability of the grid.”

They said that, because the agency was not soliciting public comment on the review, they were submitting their own report for the agency to consider.  

In that report, they write, “While there is a place for all resources, including baseload, in our current energy mix, these concerns stem from a misunderstanding of how the grid works today.”

The report argues that renewables, along with a more flexible and diverse energy system, are making the electric power system more reliable, not less. It points to extreme cold conditions in 2014 when power plant equipment failed and natural gas lines were hobbled. “But grid operators were able to turn to demand-side resources and wind energy to keep the lights on during the emergency,” the report says. The groups also noted that they represent a clean energy industry that supports over 3 million jobs.

The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.