|4/20/2017 by mdc|
|Chris Mooney opines on the Perry study of the U.S. electric grid having a particular emphasis on recent coal and nuclear plant closures on whether environmental policies may be driving them.|
Perry asked his team to undertake a 60-day inquiry into the extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants, such as those fueled by coal or nuclear energy, among other grid-related questions.
Yet even this inquiry has stirred controversy in the new administration in which nearly all moves that touch on energy and the environment are matters of contention. While framed as an inquiry into policies that will ensure the resilience of the electricity grid, Perry focus on so-called baseload generation, i.e., power plants that produce a steady, controlled stream of electricity, is in competition with fast-growing wind and solar and politics dominated. These sources by definition are variable or intermittent, providing energy only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
Many states have adopted policies to advance renewable energy, and federal tax incentives also further support wind-energy production and solar-energy investment. California, in particular, has naively embraced extreme clean energy policies, even as nuclear energy in the state is set to be phased out even as power prices go up.
Other states have not been so direct, but coal plants have been shutting down in droves even as a few nuclear plants are thinking about closing in the past five years, citing difficult market structures and competition from currently low-priced natural gas in some states.
The causes of these changes are complex, but the Perry memo implies that clean energy subsidies own part of the blame. Analysts have thoroughly documented the market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of the other forms of energy.