Rick Perry's 'baseload' grid study released and it's nothing new

Posted Aug 24, 2017 by Karen Graham
The U.S. Department of Energy released the much-anticipated grid study late Wednesday night, finding cheap natural gas to be the main driver behind baseload power plant retirements.
The electrical grid brings electricity from the power source into our homes and businesses.
The electrical grid brings electricity from the power source into our homes and businesses.
Fitrah Hamid, Georgia Tech
The study has been controversial since its inception in April when Rick Perry ordered his team to study the nation's electrical grid's reliability and security. While renewables weren't mentioned in the memo, there was the mention of "certain policies" that unfairly threatened coal-fired power plants.
The 125-page study found that cheap natural gas was the main culprit behind the demise of baseload power plant retirements, followed by flat power demand, environmental regulations and the growing penetration of renewables on the grid, noting that federal tax credits for wind and solar, as well as state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are hurting baseload profit lines.
The study listed eight recommendations for stakeholders, including directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to finish a study on wholesale market structures, promote research and development (R&D) for grid resiliency, modernization of the grid, renewables integration policies, and an examination of infrastructure and regulatory regulations.
Specifically, reports Ars Technica, the DOE report wants FERC to use existing regulations to push markets to better compensate electricity generators "that are necessary to support reliable grid operations," meaning coal and nuclear plants. To that end, the study also recommends that federal agencies expedite permitting for hydroelectric, coal, and nuclear plants.
The study noted that grid managers have already addressed the reliability of the grid in response to the increase in the percentage of renewables on the grid, however, there is still the need to focus even more on resiliency in light of "severe weather events." While there was no mention of global warming, this was as close as the report would come to mentioning, without mentioning climate change.
Interestingly, the DOE is also soliciting input from the public on the report, but there is no indication of how long they will accept comments.