Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to make the U.S. electrical grid great again starts with rolling back the Obama administration’s “politically-driven policies” that forced coal and nuclear power plants to retire in recent years.
“These politically-driven policies, driven primarily by a hostility to coal, threatened the reliability and the stability of the greatest electrical grid in the world,” Perry said at an Energy Department conference in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning.
“It’s not reasonable to rely exclusively on fossil fuels,” he said. “It’s not feasible to rely exclusively on renewables.”
Perry’s remarks came as his agency is preparing to release a study on grid reliability that environmentalists and green energy backers fear will pan variable power sources, like wind turbines and solar panels.
The wind industry was so worried about Perry’s grid reliability review, they put together a lobbying and media strategy to push back against it — before it had been released.
As part of that plan, wind lobbyists released a report in June touting the benefits of a “diverse” electric grid. That study has only ruffled feathers at the Energy Department where it’s been seen as an attack on the agency’s credibility.
Perry has yet to signal any hostility towards wind power. In fact, wind power boomed while he was governor of Texas.
Perry laid out an “all of the above” plan for “energy dominance” that doesn’t tilt the scale in favor of one type of energy, like the Obama administration did for green energy. Perry aims to ensure “renewables get to the electrical grid,” but also make sure nuclear and coal power aren’t “tossed aside.”
Perry’s remarks shouldn’t be surprising — President Donald Trump pledged to help the coal industry on the campaign trail by rolling back Obama-era climate and mining regulations — but they do give some insight into what the Energy Department’s grid study may find.
The Energy Department’s study may validate concerns from energy experts and Republicans that green energy, like wind and solar, hurt grid reliability because of their variable nature.
The study may also find Obama-era policies made the grid less stable, but the Energy Department is unlikely to come out against green energy altogether. The study will probably find beneficial policies and uses for green energy.
The big question is what can Perry do to keep more baseload power online?
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies have contributed to coal plants closures, but so have low natural gas prices and subsidies for green energy. So far, utilities have retired or slated for retirement 100 gigawatts of coal power through 2020.
Some plants were converted to burn natural gas, but most were completely taken offline — or will be in the coming years.
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