US Energy Secretary anxious about coal

Kevin Butt Toyota's regional environmental sustainability director at a facility that uses methane to generate clean electricity to help run Toyota's auto plant in central Kentucky

US Energy Secretary anxious about coal

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has ordered a departmental review of the electricity grid, targeting federal regulations and support for renewable energy that he says could imperil baseload power in the future.

South Australians reliance on green energy in the state "has not only led to a series of technical challenges" but "also increased wholesale price volatility as the state rebalances its supply from dispatchable plant to intermittent generation", Australia's Energy Council noted a year ago.

This is a critical component of our national energy security picture, and it's certainly one worthy of official review.

Critics of solar and wind energy say renewable energy doesn't provide power when the sun's not out or the wind's not blowing, making for a less reliable grid.

However, wind and solar power capacity is increasing - wind now produces 5.5 percent of America's electricity and the installed capacity of solar power almost doubled a year ago and employs over 260,000 workers nationwide.

Later in the memo, Perry said he wanted his chief of staff to figure out what regulatory burdens, subsidies and tax policies are forcing the "premature" closing of coal plants across the country, including the implementation of state-level renewable energy policies (often known as renewable portfolio standards or renewable energy standards) that require utilities to purchase some portion of of their electricity from renewable sources. He also wants to know whether wholesale energy markets adequately compensate actions that, in his view, strengthen grid resilience such as on-site fuel supply usually provided by coal and nuclear plants.

The project would involve hundreds acres of reclaimed strip mines and generate employment for displaced coal miners in the construction phase of the development. According to the news release, engineering studies and site selection procedures have begun, and project leaders are focusing on twin mountaintop removal sites just outside Pikeville.

The coal was mined using "mountaintop removal", a surface coal mining technique that uses blasting and heavy machinery to remove layers of dirt and rock to reach coal seams.

Eastern Kentucky is filled with former coal mines that are being redeveloped for various purposes, including golf courses and housing developments. This is a long-term process with much work to be done before a construction date can be set, but I believe an experienced renewable project developer like EDF RE is the ideal partner in making our vision a reality. Tyler White, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said the proposed solar farm would likely not be possible if it weren't for "subsidies of this sort of energy", including federal tax credits. "We need to start rolling back policies that essentially pick the winners and losers". If you would like to discuss another topic, look for a relevant article.

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