Fact-checking DOE Secretary Rick Perry’s renewable energy inquiry

At the request of Secretary Rick Perry, the Department of Energy is slated to release an analysis this month looking at the reliability of the nation’s electricity grid. But, rather than acknowledging changing market forces, the role of clean energy in strengthening the grid, and the growth of the clean energy economy, Perry’s inquiry appears to be framed to lay the groundwork for attacks on clean energy to appease fossil fuel special interests.

Last week, SELC sent a letter, along with 20 groups throughout the South, urging Perry to do a full and fair review of renewable energy and grid reliability. SELC also created a fact sheet to provide a real sense of the robust clean energy economy in the South.

As outlined in a memo directing his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack to conduct the 60-day inquiry, Perry’s premise is that regulatory burdens on “baseload” power resources (coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric), and federal subsidies for renewables are creating problems for maintaining the reliability of the grid.

This stands in stark contrast to Perry’s view of renewable energy as a smart investment during his tenure as governor of Texas. Under his leadership, Texas led the way in renewable energy, producing more wind energy than the next three states combined, and Georgetown, Texas has recently become one of the first cities in the country to be entirely powered by solar and wind energy – a decision that has brought the city millions of dollars in new investments.

Another concern regarding the objectivity of the analysis: The DOE staffers charged with conducting it have a track record of bias against clean energy.

DOE Chief of Staff McCormack most recently worked at Edison Electric Institute (EEI), where he coordinated efforts to impose fees and roll back compensation for rooftop solar owners. Travis Fisher, a political appointee at DOE, previously worked for the Koch Brothers-funded Institute for Energy Research and American Energy Alliance where he made comments lamenting tax credits for wind and solar. Daniel Simmons, tapped to lead DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has falsely claimed that higher levels of wind and solar power raise domestic prices.

In fact:

  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN OUR ECONOMY: Across the Southeast, solar jobs are growing – with over 20,000 jobs in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama.
  • RENEWABLES STRENGTHEN NATIONAL SECURITY: The U.S. military plans for 25 percent of the military’s energy production to come from renewables by 2025 and bases in Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina have all gone solar due to energy independence and security concerns.
  • RENEWABLE ENERGY HAS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT: Republican state officials have long championed their states’ clean energy investments, including former South Carolina governor and current United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s praise of a landmark 2015 bill that opened up South Carolina to more solar power.
  • RESEARCH SHOWS THE U.S. HAS MUCH MORE CAPACITY FOR RENEWABLES: A two-year analysis from the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) found renewable energy can reliably meet up to 80 percent of U.S. electric demand in 2050 with modest improvements to the flexibility of the grid.

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