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By Chris White
Green energy industries do not pose a significant threat to the U.S. electrical grid, unnamed sources said in a Friday draft report of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) long-awaited study on the nation’s energy grid.
The agency is still reviewing aspects of the data, but the draft contrasts with DOE head Rick Perry’s arguments that coal provides a base-load level of support for the grid. Coal production helped defray the risks that solar and wind power posed to the grid, Perry and others within the Republican Party have warned.
“The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards,” the July draft claims, according to Bloomberg. Two unnamed sources within the agency confirmed to Bloomberg the DOE’s early finding, but warned that the conclusion is likely to change.
“Costly environmental regulations and subsidized renewable generation have exacerbated base-load power plant retirements,” the draft notes. “However, those factors played minor roles compared to the long-standing drop in electricity demand relative to previous expectation and years of low electric prices driven by high natural gas availability.”
Analysts maintain that former President Barack Obama’s so-called war against the coal industry was the catalyst that led to the boom in natural gas. Excessive regulations during the Obama-era, they say, created an uptick in automation and a switch to natural gas.
The DOE’s study comes after Perry said in early April that 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 at the time, not referring to any specific country. However, there is evidence that Germany and Australia’s reliance on green energy subsidies has 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 limit and could have gone offline entirely.
The problems in Australia have been especially acute. The country’s energy providers failed to adequately fill a vacuum left by retired coal plants, which has made it difficult for them to provide enough energy for the Australians during the hot summer months.
One company shipped out hundreds of thousands of tons of liquefied natural gas during the middle of a blackout that cut power to tens of thousands of homes, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
Australia cut back on coal as companies began increasing natural gas exports. The country’s coal production placed it among the world’s biggest greenhouse-gas emitters per capita – Australia began shuttering coal-fueled plants at dizzying rate without plans to replace them with other power source.
DOE spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes neither confirmed nor denied Bloomberg’s report on the draft, telling reporters that, “[t]hose statements as written are not in the current draft.” She wouldn’t say they are incorrect, just that the draft is “constantly evolving.”