Whenever a study comes out, everyone acts like there’s a winner and a loser, or that you must agree or disagree – however inaccurate.
Some get defensive and point fingers as to why the analysis turned out the way it did. Others proclaim victory and unjustly reiterate different variations of “I told you so.”
And when the Department of Energy (DOE) released its highly-anticipated grid study, that’s exactly what unraveled among proponents of each form of energy.
That means lost yet again in much of the political and strategical posturing was the end use r— families and small businesses with little wiggle room in their razor-thin budgets to accommodate the high energy costs that tend to happen when people start to favor one source of energy over another.
That was never the point of the analysis.
A little background: The study, commissioned in April, was designed to evaluate baseload power across the U.S. That’s because America’s electric grids have undergone astounding transformations over the past decade. From the shale gas revolution and grid modernization to energy efficiency programs and electric-powered vehicles, the grid has become more dynamic than ever.
And the pace of change will not slow anytime soon.
Recently, tremendous shifts have occurred in our power generation fleet to meet changing demands, economics and compliance along with sweeping environmental regulations – which have led to the significant retirements of large coal and nuclear power plants.
Moreover, we’ve seen a tremendous influx of renewable power generation as well as surging distributed energy options that must be integrated into the grid.
This presents both opportunities and challenges in keeping America’s lights on and cell phones charged. It also highlights the need for such a study.
The DOE Grid Study ultimately concluded that while grid operators have been able to keep pace with changes in an array of electricity markets, there are still issues of resiliency that need to be addressed in regions across the U.S. due to a combination of external factors.
That’s when, regrettably, everyone took their corners.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, supporters of all energy resources – renewable and traditional – should use this study as a springboard to jumpstart a robust conversation about the best path forward to grow our electric grid, lower costs and safeguard the environment we live in along with the jobs that support us.
Especially for the sake of small businesses struggling to stay profitable and less well-off households that live on fixed incomes, at the poverty line and even below it.
Right now, America is at a pivotal point. While utilities, electric cooperatives and grid operators have been able to absorb the changes brought about by increases in renewable energy and the abundance of low-cost natural gas, it’s clear that significant challenges to keep energy affordable and reliable for all await as the pace of change accelerates.
That means we need elected officials to have not only an open mind about all resources but a balanced dialogue about what the future of the electric grid should look like. Most importantly, we need them to ask the right questions on energy that will result in the kind of honest, well-rounded policy that’ll benefit families and small businesses.
These consumers need policy that will ensure grid reliability and security, not the same old one-sided talking points grounded in a PR campaign.
David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).
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