In what’s being called a first, in the latest short-term energy outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipated that renewable energy sources will provide more of the US’s electricity than coal will in April and May of 2019. It’s the latest death-knell for coal, which increasingly costs more than renewable energy to produce, while also producing pollution.
“The future of the US electricity generation industry may have arrived, and it is not good news for struggling coal-fired generating plants,” said Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, (IEEFA) analyst Dennis Wamsted. “This month, for the first time ever, the renewable energy sector (hydro, biomass, wind, solar and geothermal) is projected to generate more electricity than coal-fired plants, which totals about 240 gigawatts (GW) of still-operating capacity.”
The EIA’s report shows that renewable energy is likely to start surpassing coal power sporadically and increasingly in coming years, just as natural gas started to do in 2015. In 2018 natural gas surpassed coal for the full year for the first time.
The IEEFA analysis noted that there are still some other circumstances as to why this is happening now, like some coal plants being taken offline for maintenance. But Wamsted noted: “This represents a momentous development driven by the deep transition under way in the electric generation arena. It is also likely, particularly given IEEFA’s forecasts for continued declines in the amount of installed coal-fired capacity, and steady increases in the amount of installed solar and wind generation, that renewable output will begin outpacing coal more and more frequently—just as occurred with natural gas.”
Looking ahead, the EIA said it anticipated that wind power will soon surpass hydropower as the biggest generator of renewable energy as well. Largely because of price drops in the cost of wind and solar power, it’s just less expensive to build new renewable energy plants than keep running old fossil fuel plants and 74% of coal plants now cost more than wind and solar, a VCE report found.
“The market has spoken loudly: The competition for America’s energy future is over, and coal has lost,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook. “Why, then, do President Trump and some short-sighted lawmakers want to prop up a loser?”
Indeed, Lazard’s latest Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) report found that the cost of cost of utility-scale solar power has fallen as low as $36 per megawatt hour (MWh) in the US—without subsidies. Lower than the marginal cost of coal at $60 per MWH.Tweet