Grid Reliability: The Department of Energy Throws down Red Flags on Unreliable Wind and Solar

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Last week the Department of Energy released “Electricity Markets and Reliability,” a 154-page magnum opus on the state of America’s electricity system. It’s the perfect government report: a tutorial chock full of useful data, along with observations that provide something interpretable for everyone. Let the spinning begin.

One reporter observed “the final report does not reflect the type of hostility to renewable power that President Trump and others in his administration have voiced.” Meanwhile, one advocacy organization headlined the report: “US Department of Energy Officially Declares War On Renewable Energy.”

These kinds of observations, and others in the same vein, miss the point. What’s notable about the report is the absence of a monomaniacal advocacy for renewables, combined with a sober description of grid engineering and physics. That tone, by itself, is a sea change.

Regarding the politically charged question as to whether there has been premature retirement for coal-fired power plants, DOE artfully provides nine definitions for “premature retirement.” Then, rather than answer the question, DOE opts to assess “the various factors that contribute to power plant retirement trends.” Call this a dodge if you must, but it’s really just a return to more of an advisory rather than advocacy role for DOE. Another sea change.

Political color aside, the substance of the report can be distilled to three conclusions:

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