Leaked memo details wind industry campaign against major Energy Department study

By Michael Bastasch

Not long after Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced a 60-day review of green energy policies’ impact on electric grid reliability, the wind industry’s lobbying arm devised a strategy to push back against the study, according to a leaked memo.

Perry’s April announcement worried the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and others that the requested study could be used to bash subsidies and policies that allowed wind energy production to rapidly grow in recent years.

AWEA laid out a plan to engage with federal lawmakers, regulators and the media to push back against a study they saw as “supporting baseload sources such as coal and nuclear,” according to a leaked memo obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

AWEA’s message to Congress and the Trump administration referenced jobs the wind sector provides.

“Wind energy is helping diversify our energy mix and makes the power grid more reliable and secure, as well as bringing good jobs and billions of dollars of investments to rural and Rust Belt America,” the memo reads.

“That’s old news at this point,” AWEA spokesman Evan Vaughan told TheDCNF, referring to the strategy laid out in the leaked memo.

“Since then we’ve had some good meetings with the Department of Energy team working on the study, and we’re making sure they have all the facts about how cost-effective and reliable wind has become,” Vaughan said.

“That has been confirmed by our own research and by experts who run the grid every day, such as the Southwest Power Pool and Xcel Energy,” he said.

On April 15, Perry ordered Energy Department officials to see if regulations, mandates, and tax subsidies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.”

Conservatives and some energy experts have worried too much variable solar and wind power could imperil electric grids. Wind power production has rapidly grown in recent years largely due to federal tax incentives and states mandates for green energy.

Green energy supporters and environmentalists interpreted the department’s study as a lifeline to coal and nuclear power plants, many of which have been slated for closure in the coming years. The Trump administration may be more focused on promoting coal and nuclear, green energy advocates feared.

AWEA quickly circulated a memo with other green advocates to push back against Perry’s study. The group planned a media and advocacy blitz in preparation for a study critical of wind power.

AWEA personnel would discuss the study with “contacts” at the Energy Department and present their own research to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the electric grid, according to the memo sent out by AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan on April 17.

Kiernan also wanted AWEA to “pursue late April meeting with Secretary Perry and wind CEOs” and to lock down a meeting with Perry in Dallas, Texas.

The memo mentions teaming up with the Solar Energy Industries of America and the pro-green energy Advanced Energy Economy to issue a “joint response” to the study. Kiernan also suggested working with allies in Congress and the media, including The New York Times.

“Ask Governors Wind and Solar Energy Coalition to integrate related language to their pending Washington Times op-ed submission this week,” reads the memo, which also asks staff to “check with Diane Cardwell of NYT on status of her ‘wind is the new baseload’ story.”

Cardwell published a story May 30th, echoing similar concerns AWEA had about Perry’s study — namely that it may lack objectivity and favor certain energy sources over others. Cardwell also mentioned pro-green energy supporters concerns with Travis Fisher oversee the study.

Fisher was an economist at the conservative Institute for Energy Research. AWEA’s memo mentioned hiring a third party to publish research to “debunk” reports by conservative groups, like IER.

The memo also asks staff to “identify other reporters who haven’t covered the annual report and should be briefed” — likely referring to AWEA’s annual report on the wind industry.

AWEA’s memo mentions reviving an educational campaign as series, but this time buying space on channels “closely followed by the Trump administration.” The group also prepared talking points for third parties on TV and in the media to rebut claims about wind power being unreliable.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley must have heard AWEA’s warning. The GOP lawmaker said Perry’s study seemed “to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources.”

“As the former governor of Texas, you surely have an appreciation for the enormous economic contributions wind energy is already providing in many parts of the country,” Grassley wrote in a March letter to Perry.

Iowa gets nearly 40 percent of its electricity from wind turbines. The wind industry gave Grassley $16,000 in the 2014 election cycle, according to The Center For Responsive Politics.

“We hope the Department of Energy will be taking this substantial body of existing research into account when they issue their study,” AWEA’s Vaughan told TheDCNF.

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