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DEO Publishes Study On Grid Stability Factors

As much as researchers, companies and third parties invent, innovate and study renewable energy and the multiple opportunities it provides, it has, at least so far, always come second to traditional fossil fuels.

This is the case in many factors: cost, efficiency, reach and, as some would argue, even direct harm to environment and sustainability. The long-awaited U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) internal study into the effects of renewable energy on the grid seems to further show how renewable methods are lagging behind conventional O&G.

Commissioned back in April and published towards the very end of August, the report consisted of a 60-day review of the US electric grid, specifically looking into its reliability and resilience in terms of different energy strategies and methods. The starting point for the report was the belief that renewables had a negative impact on the grid, weakening its stability. The report issued three key findings to highlight.

The first finding pinpoints that the wholesale electricity markets are changing due to the emerging VREs – Variable Renewable Energy – which are non-dispatchable because of their fluctuation rates. This causes a higher strain on other power plants which must be operated “nimbly” to compensate, but also incentivises efforts to improve system flexibility.

The second finding addresses how prepared energy suppliers are to ensure the grid’s resilience, e.g. by storing fuel on-site. Once again, VRE, who cannot guarantee energy consistently, place behind coal and natural gas which are very able to not only perform reliably, but recover swiftly.

Finally, the third finding shows how regulations and other government initiated burdens lead to the termination of power plants. “Natural gas-fired generation” was identified as the biggest contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements, whist VRE “has negatively impacted the economics of baseload plants” because of the tax credits received by renewables producers.

To summarise, the DOE shows a strong preference for traditional energy sources as opposed to the new green ones, which it finds disruptive and widely harmful to the reliability and resilience of the grid. DOE recommends the restoration of coal, but is overall less hostile towards renewables than expected back in spring.

Despite the importance of the results and recommendations that the DOE has published, Dashboard must stress that the report only concerns USA. Meanwhile, other countries such as Germany, have proven that green energy does, indeed, work in practise and is, despite all its short comings listed in the study, a viable option.

Link to report