August 23, 2017 / 9:32 PM / a year ago

U.S. Energy Dept. to release electric grid study Wednesday night

WASHINGTON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Energy will release a study of electric grid reliability on Wednesday night, a department official said, an endeavor the renewable industry worries may fault surging solar and wind power for weaknesses on the grid.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry commissioned the study in April to evaluate whether “regulatory burdens” imposed by past administrations had forced the premature retirement of base load power plants which provide nonstop power, like those fired by coal and nuclear fuel.

Former President Barack Obama had introduced a raft of new regulations intended to slash emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for climate change, a policy course that discouraged investments in coal-fired power plants, and bolstered the nascent solar and wind sectors.

Hundreds of coal power plants, and many nuclear reactors, have closed in recent years, as electric utilities turn to cheap natural gas, as well as to wind and solar.

Critics of renewables, however, have argued that solar and wind energy undermines grid reliability because the technologies depend heavily on weather conditions for their power output.

A draft of the Department of Energy report, reviewed by Reuters in July, had concluded that the growth of renewable power, including wind and solar, had not harmed the reliability of the U.S. electricity grid - and that significant increases in renewable power generation remained possible.

But that draft had not yet been reviewed by the administration, the last step before publication. President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to revive the coal industry, and has repeatedly expressed doubts about climate change.

Environmental group the Sierra Club sued the Energy Department earlier this month in hopes of forcing it to reveal the groups it has consulted, which the department refused to do. (Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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