Distributed Energy Resources, Regulation, Distributed Generation, Regulation, Solar, Wind  -  June 21, 2017 - By Amy Poszywak

Groups release US grid study ahead of DOE's

A new study funded by the Advanced Energy Economy and the American Wind Energy Association has found that the shifting U.S. electricity resource mix does not threaten the reliability of the country's power system.

The release of the report pre-empts the results of a U.S. Department of Energy study ordered by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to study the grid with a focus on the impacts of an accelerating amount of renewable energy being added to its generation mix.

The study, conducted by the Analysis Group, found that market forces – primarily low-cost natural gas and flat demand for electricity – are causing some coal and nuclear power plants to retire, rather than state and federal policies supporting renewable energy development.

AEE and AWEA said June 20 that they commissioned Analysis Group to independently answer the questions Perry raised in his request for a DOE study. The Analysis Group report, they said, has been submitted to the DOE to inform its review.

"Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability," the report reads. "In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts. The evidence does not support this view."

In various speaking engagements in recent months, Perry has made clear his thinking that the use of "baseload power," the energy industry term for traditional, large, centralized coal and nuclear power plants, are necessary for the country and should be protected. Most recently, on June 20, Perry told the House Committee on Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee at a hearing that these types of units should be given priority, according to a report from SNL Energy.

"Perry said that when it comes to power generation, winners and losers should not be picked based on politics, and maintained that 'the facts' would show the need to boost baseload power," the publication reported.

On April 28, business trade groups AEE, AWEA and the Solar Energy Industries Association sent a joint letter to Sec. Perry asking that the DOE "initiate a public process," and that the study "follow standard practice and be conducted in an open and transparent manner," noting that it is "customary" for agencies developing reports that provide policy recommendations to allow public comment on a draft prior to the report being finalized. No reply was received, according to the groups.  

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