Trump Officials Rewrite Energy Dept. Study to Make Renewables Look Bad, Fail Anyway

Joe Romm ThinkProgress

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s long-awaited grid study is finally out. But while Trump officials clearly tried to rewrite the previously leaked staff draft to give the impression that renewable energy sources are a threat to baseload power and grid resilience, they mostly botched the job.

Back in April, Perry ordered a study to back up his claims that solar and wind power were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability and forcing the premature retirement of baseload nuclear and coal plants. In July, Bloomberg obtained the draft report, written by Department of Energy staff, and revealed that they found essentially the opposite, as we reported.

A second bombshell conclusion in the draft report was that “the power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.”

Both of those bombshells are nowhere to be found in the final version released late Wednesday. So what caused the baseload retirements? The final report concedes that “the biggest contributor… has been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation,” and that “another factor… is low growth in electricity demand.”

But in place of the finding that subsidies for variable renewable energy (VRE) — basically wind and solar — had a minor role in shutting down baseload plants, is the conclusion that “dispatch of VRE has negatively impacted the economics of baseload plants.” And on a related note, the final version of the report states that “participants on a panel of economists at a May 2017 FERC technical conference cited state-level RPS and Federal tax credits for VRE as examples of wholesale market impacts and distortions.”

But buried deeper in the 187-page report is a finding that completely contradicts the stated conclusion of the rewritten report: “To date, however, the data do not show a widespread relationship between VRE penetration and baseload retirements, as shown in Figure 3.28.”

Figure 3.28 clearly shows that coal and nuclear retirements (brown dots) have no correlation with variable renewable energy penetration.

Nonetheless, in his letter accompanying the report, Perry asserts that “It is apparent that in today’s competitive markets certain regulations and subsidies are having a large impact on the functioning of markets, and thereby challenging our power generation mix.”


Not only were renewables not a major factor in coal and nuclear retirements, but the final DOE study also concludes that the grid is more reliable than ever. It’s just not as blunt about it as the draft was.

You have to read to page 63 to find this about the crucial metric of Bulk Power System (BPS) reliability:

BPS reliability is adequate today despite the retirement of 11 percent of the generating capacity available in 2002, as significant additions from natural gas, wind, and solar have come online since then. Overall, at the end of 2016, the system had more dispatchable capacity capable of operating at high utilization rates than it did in 2002.

So, after integrating all of that wind and solar while shutting down all that baseload power (mostly coal), the grid actually has more flexibility than it did  a decade and a half ago.

But Perry mentions nothing about that in his letter, and the political team who wrote the findings can’t bring themselves to say any more than “to date, wholesale markets have withstood a number of stresses.” But then they quickly seek to raise doubts about the future, warning that “market designs may be inadequate given potential future challenges. VRE—with near-zero marginal costs and if at high penetrations—will lower wholesale energy prices independent of effects of the current low natural gas prices.”

Pretty scary, unless you stop to realize that if the Trump administration wasn’t committed to diminishing renewable energy sources and boosting coal at every opportunity, they would actually be bragging about lower wholesale energy prices in the future.

And again, buried on page 123 of the report is that statement:  “Increasingly, VRE also performs a price stabilizing role—wind, solar PV, hydropower, and geothermal generation offer near zero-marginal-cost electricity. To the degree that VRE and nuclear can stabilize the short run cost of bulk power, those resources could also improve the month-to-month manageability of customer bills.”

In other words, renewable energy helps stabilize prices and make Americans’ electricity bills more manageable. And, as we’ve learned from this study, renewables weren’t a major player in the shutdown of baseload coal and nuclear, and the grid is more reliable than ever.

Seems like the Perry report proves we need more renewables.


Reposted from ThinkProgress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work