Despite Trump administration suggestions to the contrary, a U.S. Department of Energy report released this week shows renewable energy sources such as solar and wind do not threaten the reliability of the nation’s electrical grid.
The long-awaited report, originally slated for release in June, found use of coal and nuclear power, which utilities favor as reliable “baseload” energy sources, have suffered not because of the growth of renewable energy, but because of the shift to less-expensive natural gas generation.
Clean energy advocates had feared the report would be slanted to undercut the phase-out of fossil fuels in favor of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.
Dr. Karen Wayland, executive director of Nevada’s Clean Energy Project and a former Department of Energy analyst, said today’s clean-energy sources provide flexibility without threatening grid reliability. CEP is a Nevada-based advocacy organization dedicated to educating civic, community, and business leaders on the importance of smart, forward-looking energy policies that strengthen the state’s economy and improve its environment.
“This report confirms some basic facts about the nation’s electric grid – that the resource mix that fuels the system is changing rapidly due to cheap natural gas, more renewable energy, new policies, and low demand growth,” she said. “The report notes grid operators can integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy without threatening reliability, but that resources like energy storage that can make variable resources like solar and wind available 24/7 are becoming increasingly important.
“But the report’s conclusion is unequivocal: renewable energy does not pose a threat to grid reliability.”
Wayland was a senior advisor at the Department of Energy, where she established a state and local policy office for former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and helped oversee several inter-agency studies on the nation’s electricity infrastructure.
Wayland noted that large-scale energy storage systems such as those being produced by Tesla Inc. in Nevada will add additional reliability to electrical grids supported by clean energy. Cities around the world and states such as Hawaii are already establishing large energy-storage sites as a way to ensure reliable, 24-hour delivery of energy from all sources.
“Nevada’s clean energy resources can contribute to an increasingly diverse and resilient Western electricity grid as well as driving economic growth and creating jobs,” she said.