DOE Releases Much-Awaited Grid Study to Mixed Reviews

The U.S. Department of Energy released its much-awaited electric reliability grid study last night, and it was immediately met with mixed reviews from clean energy advocacy groups.

grid studyRick Perry, energy secretary, commissioned the study, citing concern that grid instability could occur as coal-fired generation declines and renewable energy rises.

Prepared by DOE career staff, the 181-page report does not explicitly push any particular fuels. Instead, it takes a wide-range look at the grid and makes broad recommendations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and other agencies.

While much of the report centers on the wholesale market, microgrids are mentioned as a reliability play. It describes energy storage as “critical in the future” if higher levels of renewable energy are deployed. But the need “may not be as great” if the grid relies on traditional baseload generation, the report said.

Among recommendations that may be pertinent to microgrids and energy storage, the grid study called for:

  • FERC to study how to value and compensate services that offer grid reliability
  • Utilities to undertake disaster preparedness exercises
  • RTOs and ISOs to define criteria for resilience, identify how to include resilience in business practices, and examine resilience-related impacts of their resource mix
  • DOE to focus on research and development to improve integration of renewables through grid modernization technologies, specifically noting sensors and controls, storage technology, grid integration, and advanced power electronics

Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association, said she was encouraged upon initial review of the report.

“Although the scope of the report was limited to the role of traditional grid assets, the study reinforces the urgent need for expanded deployment of resilient and adaptable energy storage systems to strengthen our nation’s electricity grid infrastructure,” she said. “The report plainly states that advanced energy storage systems are critical to ensuring that electricity is reliable, affordable, and secure, and that there are thousands of systems already deployed supporting our grid today.”

The Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) said that the DOE rightly recognized that changes in the grid are primarily the result of low-cost natural gas, not policies supporting renewable energy.

But AEE CEO Graham Richard added that the grid study “seriously overstates the challenges associated with new energy resources. It also implies that certain power plants now losing out in the marketplace make an irreplaceable contribution to reliability and resilience, which is not the case.”

John Moore, director of the Sustainable FERC Project housed within Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the study “reads like a schizophrenic attempt to support outdated, uncompetitive, and highly polluting power plants.”

“The recommendations ignore renewable energy’s contributions to a reliable electricity system. They also include misguided proposals to gut environmental rules for coal and nuclear plants, and to pay fossil resources for reliability services that DOE hasn’t demonstrated are necessary. DOE and Secretary Perry should be focusing instead on accelerating the growth of clean energy rather than creating barriers,” Moore added.

The DOE grid study is available here.

Stay tuned. This is an evolving story and we’ll be posting industry analysis.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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