Published on August 15th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
Sierra Club Sues US Department Of Energy Over Grid Study Obfuscation
August 15th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
The Sierra Club announced Monday that it has sued the US Department of Energy over the department’s continued delays in providing information regarding the grid study that Secretary Rick Perry directed the department to conduct into the reliability of the US electricity grid with increased levels of renewable energy.
Back in April, a memo penned by Rick Perry leaked to the press, in which Perry directs his chief of staff to conduct a 60-day review of the electricity grid, with a view to discovering whether increased levels of renewable energy will impact the grid’s reliability. As you can see for yourselves, there is already one significant issue — April was a lot longer than 60 days ago, and there is still no sign of the study. There were concerns to begin with when it was revealed the Department of Energy (DOE) would be conducting its own review of the US electricity grid’s reliability and stability, but that concern has only increased the longer the study has failed to materialize, bringing with it fears that the study may be altered to better reflect administration policies rather than verifiable facts.
Since the revelation of the study, numerous groups have stepped in to educate Senator Rick Perry and the Department of Energy. In May, four national business groups — Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) — submitted research to Secretary Perry informing him of the value and importance of renewable energy sources, and their contribution to protecting the reliability of the electricity grid.
A month later, a report published by Analysis Group — conducted on behalf of the Advanced Energy Economy and American Wind Energy Association — concluded that there was simply no evidence that the changing mix of the United States’ electricity sector will affect system reliability. Further, the Analysis Group report concluded that it was market forces — primarily the rise of low-cost natural gas and a flat demand for electricity — that are behind the retirement of coal and nuclear plants across the US, and not federal and state policies supporting renewable energy development.
Despite the mounting and overwhelming evidence that renewable energy not only improves grid reliability and is not a risk to stability, but that it is market forces behind the shift away from baseload generation, there is still no sign that the Department of Energy intends to release its grid study report any time soon.
Which leads us to the Sierra Club’s lawsuit, filed in the District Court for the Northern District of California (PDF), in direct response to the failure of the Department of Energy to provide documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Sierra Club on May 1, which requested communication between DOE officials working on the report and outside groups which represent the fossil fuel industry or grid reliability experts.
“The public has every right to be concerned that the Trump Administration is trying to use this study to push alternative facts about our electric grid,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
“We’ve repeatedly asked DOE for information to ensure reality and science are coming before polluter politics, but we have only been met with delays and secrecy. If the Trump Administration refuses to be transparent in accordance with the law and continues to raise suspicion that it will interfere with the process, we have no choice but to take them to court.”
“Study after study shows that clean energy resources like wind and solar add to the grid’s resilience, lower costs for electricity consumers, and create thousands of jobs across the country,” Hitt continued.
“The secrecy around this grid study, coupled with the lack of input from stakeholders, have raised alarms for us, and we are concerned that Perry will seize this study and strip the science from it to justify not only curtailing clean energy’s growth, but also forcing electricity customers to prop up uneconomical fossil fuel plants.
“The draft study captured the reality of what dozens of policy experts, engineers, and utility managers have been saying for years: wind and solar are helping keep the grid reliable and are powering growth in the the energy sector, and the coal and nuclear industries can no longer compete in the open market. If Perry has nothing to hide about interfering with these findings, he should prove it.”