US generates more electricity from renewables than coal for first time ever
The US generated more electricity from renewable sources than coal for the first time ever in April, new federal government data has shown.
Clean energy such as solar and wind provided 23% of US electricity generation during the month, compared with coal’s 20%, according to the Energy Information Administration.
This represents the first time coal has been surpassed by energy sources that do not release pollution such as planet-heating gases.
April was a favorable month for renewables, with low energy demand and an uptick in wind generation. This means that coal may once again pull ahead of renewables again during 2019, although the long-term trends appear to be set.
“The fate of coal has been sealed, the market has spoken,” said Michael Webber, an energy expert at the University of Texas. “The trend is irreversible now, the decline of coal is unstoppable despite Donald Trump’s rhetoric.”
Trump has repeatedly promised to revive the fortunes of the coal industry, to the delight of voters in mining regions in states such as West Virginia, by repealing various clean air and climate regulations.
However, at least 50 coal-fired power plants have shut since Trump entered the White House in 2017. The falling cost of renewables and gas has caused coal to be dislodged as a favored energy source for utilities.
“Trump has made a promise that will be broken, which is a tragedy for coalminers who were told they don’t need to get other jobs or get new skills,” said Webber. “They have been sent the wrong signal and now there are lay-offs.”
States such as New York and California have, in lieu of any national climate policy, pledged to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels. Many other states are shifting away from coal to gas, with at least 150 new gas plants, and thousands of miles of pipeline, planned in the coming years.
Gas emits less carbon dioxide, which warms the planet, than coal and it is not associated with the same health problems caused by air pollution. But it is still a fossil fuel and some environmentalists have raised concerns that a broad expansion will jeopardize the ability to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, a goal scientists say is essential to avoid the worst ravages of the climate crisis.
When I went to work at a coal fired plant, we expected them to be in service for a long time. There were lots of coal units over 60 years old at that time and ours was the newest and cleanest. We had discussions about the generators wearing out and having to be replaced, but no one ever thought that the coal fired boilers would go away.
Since I left there, one of the three units have been torn down and the other two are reviewed each year to keep operating.
FERC Dramatically Revises US Electricity Generating Predictions
July 8th, 2019 by Joshua S Hill
The United States’ Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has apparently “dramatically revised” its three-year forecast for changes in the country’s electrical generating capacity mix, according to the SUN DAY Campaign, with sharp declines expected for fossil fuel and nuclear generation offset by even stronger growth in renewable energy.
According to an analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s most recent “Energy Infrastructure Update” for May — published on July 5, detailing data through May 31 — there has been a sharp movement in favor of renewable energy sources. Specifically, according to FERC’s “Proposed Generation Additions and Retirements by June 2022,” fossil fuel generation will be slashed as the coal industry is expected to see retirements of 17,054 megawatts (MW) by June 2022, with the installation of only 1 coal unit worth a measly 17 MW. Natural gas will continue to grow in strength over the same period, but the country’s nuclear capacity is expected to plummet by 7,286 MW.
FERC’s monthly infrastructure updates have shown a continually in-flux coal industry with expected retirements fluctuating between 17 gigawatts (GW), 13.9 GW, and 14.6 GW over just the last three months. Nuclear’s predicted capacity has been in a lesser state of flux, with expected retirements of between 9 GW and 8.3 GW. The biggest change for the nuclear industry is the proposed additions, which fell from 4,800 MW by the end of March to only 1,100 MW by the end of May.
Natural gas has similarly seen very little fluctuation in its expected additions and retirements, with expectations at the end of May of additions of 28,263 MW and retirements of 10,105 MW.
On the other hand, in the last couple of months, expectations for wind capacity additions have blossomed, growing from an expected increase in capacity of 25,105 MW between now and April 2022, to a new expected increase in capacity of 27,128 MW by June 2022 — an added 2 GW. Solar, on the other hand, similarly benefited from an upward revised projection, growing from an expected capacity increase of 12,927 MW between now and April 2022 to a new expected increase in capacity of 16,303 MW — another 2.2 GW.
Overall, between now and the middle of 2022, FERC expects the renewable energy industry to add a total of 45 GW of new generating capacity.
“The revisions in FERC’s latest three-year projections underscore the dramatic changes taking place in the nation’s electrical generating mix,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, in an email to journalists. “Renewable energy sources are rapidly displacing uneconomic and environmentally dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear power – even faster than FERC had anticipated only a month ago.”