Why are the renewable energy companies worried?

Image: 3 Blade Windmill, Pixabay, CC0

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the upcoming Department of Energy study on power grid’s reliability is needed to address the facts after the Obama administration placed a premium on politics—but green energy is reportedly ready to push back.

The study, set to be released in the coming weeks, will look at the effect of green energy subsidies on the electrical grid.

“We need to know we have a reliable electric grid from a national security standpoint and an economic standpoint,” Perry told The Daily Signal Friday.

The American Wind Energy Association launched a campaign against the study immediately after Perry announced it in April, according to a leaked memo obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The association stated it was concerned the study would favor “baseload sources such as coal and nuclear.”

The memo also showed the association’s plans for working with lawmakers, other green energy industries such as solar, and pushing stories into friendly outlets such as The New York Times to simultaneously undermine the study and influence the findings.

Perry said he never expected lobbyists would try to intervene and had no criticism.

“In my previous life as a governor, a statewide elected official, and an appropriator I know people have lobbied,” Perry said. “Everyone wants their position to be heard and represented. It is your job as the governor or legislator to ask the right questions because a lobbyist is going to give you their side of the story. That’s why I asked for an educated observation on the reliability of the grid.”

Perry said he’s had concerns that the federal push behind some forms of energy over others could create danger.

“I’ve thought the previous administration had its thumb on the scale, really its whole hand on the scale, for certain industries and was willing to put our electric grid in jeopardy for a desired political outcome,” Perry said.

Bloomberg first reported on the 60-day review in April. In a memo to his chief of staff, Brian McCormack, Perry wrote that grid experts “highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.”

He further asked for an evaluation of what extent regulation, subsidies, and tax policies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.”

On Thursday, the American Wind Energy Association praised President Donald Trump and his administration for seeking energy independence for the United States.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported the association’s memo said it would reach out to its contacts in the Energy Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It also said it would reach out to New York Times reporter Diane Cardwell, who shortly thereafter did a story on the importance of wind energy that raised concerns about Travis Fisher, an Energy Department staffer overseeing the study who was previously an economist for the Institute for Energy Research.

The memo talked about the need to “debunk” reports from the institute.

This is an unusual strategy to use before the report has even been released, said Nick Loris, a research fellow in energy and environment at The Heritage Foundation.

“It seems premature for screaming and fear mongering when the results haven’t even been published,” Loris told The Daily Signal. “If the renewable energy industry has confidence in its technology, they shouldn’t worry about a government-funded study looking at the grid.”

The green energy companies were so heavily subsidized, they were often able to offer very low rates on the grid, pricing out competing coal or nuclear power companies that don’t have the subsidies, Loris noted. This has the potential to harm the energy market and make the electric grid reliant on fewer sources of energy.

American Wind Energy Association spokesman Evan Vaughan told The Daily Caller News Foundation the memo was “old news” and that the association’s leaders “had some good meetings with the Department of Energy team working on the study, and we’re making sure they have all the facts about how cost-effective and reliable wind has become.”

Vaughan didn’t provide a comment for this story, but referred The Daily Signal to a Thursday statement by American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan.

The statement said:

We support President Trump’s strategic vision to seek American energy dominance. The wind industry—America’s largest source of renewable energy capacity—stands ready to do our part implementing the president’s vision to deliver American jobs, investment and prosperity … The administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, including resources like wind, can work to make America safer and more self-reliant while growing the economy.


Portrait of Fred Lucas@FredLucasWH

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred.

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