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Smart Energy  
4 January 2018

Mixed messages from US Department of Energy on renewables?

The US Department of Energy's recent investment into solar research funding has added further confusion regarding the Trump Administration's true attitude towards renewable energy. 

Just before Christmas, the DoE announced a $12 million investment into eight research projects, designed to advance predictive modelling capabilities for solar generation.

The aim is to close the research gap that prevents utilities from knowing how much solar energy will be available at any given hour of the day, ensuring accurate forecasts, managed variability and a more reliable grid.

Four of the eight projects will focus on the technology behind more accurate forecasting of solar generation. The remaining four projects will focus on how to integrate these new forecasting technologies into current grid planning and operations models, while advancing energy management systems based on transparent metrics and rules.

“These tools are becoming more important as the solar industry continues to grow, and will work to ensure that solar contributes to the reliability, affordability, and resilience of our nation’s electric grid,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

The total public private spend on this project is estimated at $14.6 million, allowing +- $1.5 million per project.

Trump policies and renewable energy

But does this investment demonstrate a Whitehouse fully behind the deployment of renewables?

The recently passed Tax Bill will see coal power being subsidised, an action supported by the administration’s view that coal is the most resilient form of power. The Bill also means fewer tax credits for wind and solar projects, potentially damaging investment opportunities in new projects and halting progress of those in the pipeline.

The situation is compounded by import tariffs on Chinese manufactured solar panels, in an effort to protect the US solar-panel manufacturing industry. This would see a solar module double in price, a challenge the market can hardly afford.

The Tax Bill and coal subsidies are however receiving opposition, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission looks for a compromise, only subsidising coal plants on the brink of closure.

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