The Energy 202: Perry’s Electric Grid Draft Draws Some Blanks


Publish Date:
July 18, 2017
  • Grandoni, Dino,
  • Chris Mooney
The Washington Post
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After attending a meeting in April with other energy ministers from Europe, Canada and Japan, Energy Secretary Rick Perry wrote a memo to his department saying there was “notable concern” among his foreign counterparts “about how certain policies are affecting, and potentially putting at risk, energy security and reliability.”

The issue Perry raised was this: Could the recent changes in the way the United States generates electricity —  over the past decade, a spate of coal and nuclear power plants closed as wind, solar and especially natural-gas generation picked up — mean the United States would not have enough power plants capable of running 24/7 and and delivering electricity when consumers demanded it? Is it enough, in short, to make sure the lights reliably turn on?

This is, of course, a draft, and that analysis may be forthcoming. But the question of whether that combination of gas, wind and solar is enough to make sure the lights reliably turn on was always going to be a difficult one to answer in the tight 60-day window Perry requested, according to Dan Reicher, executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford and a former Energy Department official in the Clinton administration.

“To be fair,” he said, “that’s a much more complicated piece of analysis.”

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