File this one under H for Hell hath no fury like a Texan scorned by a New Yorker. US President* and Queens native Donald Trump totally ignored Texas’s huge wind industry during his “Made in America Week” publicity event last month, and his Energy Secretary — Texas native Rick Perry — still seems peeved over the diss. In the latest development, Perry’s Department of Energy is touting three new reports that paint a glowing picture of the state of the US wind industry.
The new reports come at a particularly fraught time for Perry, who is facing the imminent release of a much-anticipated “grid study” that was supposed to support Trump’s pro-coal rhetoric.
Don’t Forget About US Wind!
Made in America Week was the latest in a series of White House efforts to turn attention away from the President’s falling poll numbers. The publicity effort featured 50 US manufacturers, one from each state — but the booming wind sector was conspicuously absent.
As usual, the publicity effort was overshadowed by a relentless flood of bad news, and Perry didn’t help matters much. He deployed the Energy Department’s media and his own @SecretaryPerry Twitter account to troll the President mercilessly all through the week, mainly by drawing attention to the US wind industry.
Here’s a representative sample from @SecretaryPerry:
Perry was skating on thin ice, considering that wind energy is one of the President’s growing list of pet peeves but it looks like for now Secretary Perry still has a job, unlike several others who have gotten under their boss’s skin.
Daniel Simmons Is Pouting!
The three new Energy Department reports were announced in a detailed press release on Monday.
Interestingly, for all his wind energy cheerleading Perry did not give himself a quote in the press release.
He passed that job off to Trump appointee and former fossil fuel lobbyist Daniel Simmons, who now heads up the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which produced the reports.
Or, someone over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ordered up the Simmons quote. Whatever. Instead of enthusing over the spectacular growth of the US wind industry, Simmons squeezed out this tepid remark (emphasis mine):
“The wind industry continues to install significant amounts of new capacity, and supplied about 6 percent of total U.S. electricity in 2016… As our reports explain, a combination of federal subsidies, state mandates, and technological advancements continue to help drive new wind capacity additions.”
Ohfergawdsakes. We could go on and on about federal subsidies for fossil fuels. Anyways, Simmons’s own office shepherds a slew of federal programs that can be credited with helping the US wind industry take off, so why is he being such a Debbie Downer?
Perhaps Simmons and Perry don’t see eye to eye. Perry never did officially welcome Simmons to the Energy Department, and there is still a big fat “Acting” slapped over Simmons’s Assistant Secretary title.
In any case, Perry showed Simmons how to cheerlead for renewables, Energy Department style. Take another look at the tweet atop this article. It links to the press release announcing the three reports:
Three Cheers For US Wind!
Simmons’s sulking aside, the three reports pain a rosy picture of the US wind industry. The land based utility scale report lists Perry’s home state of Texas as the national leader and makes this observation:
…wind energy continues to be sold at attractive prices through power purchase agreements, making this renewable energy source cost-competitive with traditional power sources such as natural gas in many parts of the U.S, especially when wind energy is sold at a fixed price over 20 years.
Rex Tillerson, are you listening?
Jobs also get a shoutout in the utility scale report (thanks, Trump!):
The report also shows the impact of growing the American workforce, currently supporting 101,738 jobs related to project development, siting, turbine manufacturing, transportation, and other sectors — an increase of 32 percent from 2015.
The offshore report credits the success of European projects with raising the level of confidence in the US offshore wind investors:
News of the declining costs for offshore wind projects in Europe spurred confidence in the domestic U.S. offshore wind market over the past year. Several states including Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland have enacted new policy or bolstered their existing policy to support the development of over 4,000 MW of offshore wind.
Grid Study? What Grid Study?
The third report deals with distributed wind energy. That’s bound to raise some interesting points considering that Perry’s forthcoming “grid study” (which is now in its sixth week of delay) is expected to make the case for traditional, centralized coal fired power plants as well as nuclear and hydro plants.
The distributed wind report has a slightly different goal in mind (scroll to section 1.0):
The report provides key information on current market conditions and regulatory environments that can help stakeholders increase the cost competitiveness of distributed wind systems and build better turbines and components, leading to improved grid integration and increased customer and utility confidence in distributed wind systems.
Okay, so there’s that.
The new report also makes a good case for encouraging the growth of distributed wind because it is a job-creating engine. Despite some shrinkage in the industry, US manufacturers accounted for most (98%) of domestic sales for small turbines of 100 kilowatts or less last year.
US manufacturers also rely heavily on US vendors for their supply chain. In 2016, they reported relying on US components for 80% – 100% of their turbine components.
The report also notes that the US distributed wind industry is helping to drive US exports:
Between 2014 and 2016, U.S.-based small wind turbine manufacturers accounted for more than $240 million in small wind turbine export sales.
Really, how did Trump miss all this for Made in America Week? No wonder Perry took offense.
Whither Rick Perry?
In normal times, the release of three Energy Department reports on wind energy would be a dog bites man story.
Under the Trump Administration, it’s a yet another weird case of man bites dog. Trump leaned heavily on coal industry messaging during and after his 2016 presidential campaign, but apparently he has given Perry free rein to promote renewable energy development.
So far during Perry’s term in office, the Energy Department has been pumping out all the good news about clean tech in general and renewables in particular at a rapid-fire pace, just as it did under the Obama Administration.
That’s all well and good, but during his tenure as the longest-serving Governor in Texas history, Perry demonstrated that his promotion of next-generation energy does not trickle down into social issues.
His governance had a devastating impact on women’s health in Texas, and more recently he has written op-eds supporting the Trump position on health care and transgender rights.
Perry also took Trump’s climate position under his wing and supported the Paris withdrawal.
Who knows when the next shoe will drop, but considering the release of a milestone climate change report, Perry is going to have to swing even further to the right if he wants to keep on Trump’s good side.
Images: via Twitter.