By Chris White
April 16, 2017 - Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered a study Friday examining to what extent solar and wind power are hurting what the Trump administration considers reliable forms of coal power.
Perry, a Texas Republican who served as governor of an energy-rich state, wants the Energy Department to undergo a 60-day review of the energy grid to determine if green energy subsidies are hurting more reliable forms of energy like natural gas and coal.
“We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas,” Perry wrote in a memo to his chief of staff, Brian McCormack. The DOE chief was referring to sources of energy he and President Donald Trump believe should be included when discussing the country’s energy grid.
Perry’s review also seeks to evaluate to what extent regulatory burdens, subsidies, and tax policies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.”
The grid study comes after Perry said he and international counterparts discussed the need for a diverse supply of electricity during a G-7 Energy Ministerial meeting in Rome.
“It impressed upon me that the United States should take heed of the policy choices our allies have made and take stock of their consequences,” Perry said, not referring to any specific country.
But there is evidence that Germany and Australia’s reliance on green energy subsidies have caused damage to their grids. Germany’s subsidies for green energy, for instance, have sharply increased power prices in the country, with the average German paying 39 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. The average U.S. citizen, meanwhile, spends 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour by comparison.
Wind and solar power plants in the European country under-performed in January because of cloudy weather with little or no wind, which nearly collapsed the country’s entire grid. Germany’s power grid was strained to the absolute limit and could have gone offline entirely.
South Australia underwent similar strains. The state has plenty of coal and natural gas reserves, but, thanks to South Australia’s environmental movement, many of the state’s most reliable coal-powered plants have been shuttered, forcing solar and wind power to make up the deficit.
The state’s growing dependence on renewable energy is resulting in brownouts and blackouts.
South Australians reliance on green energy in the state “has not only led to a series of technical challenges” but “also increased wholesale price volatility as the state rebalances its supply from dispatchable plant to intermittent generation,” Australia’s Energy Council noted last year.
Perry’s study comes on the heels of Trump’s recent moves to roll back a slew of Obama-era climate rules, including regulations dramatically lowering the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The president is also expected to render a verdict in May on the fate of the Paris climate summit agreement, a deal nearly 200 countries signed to address climate change.