Energy efficiency improvements, as well as Solar and wind power, are less expensive alternatives to replace aging, polluting coal-fired power plants than even natural gas, according a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The report was issued even as the Trump Administration attempts to make it easier for coal miners to pollute and pulls back on other environmental regulations, including attempting to repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
The report, “Clean Energy and Efficiency Can Replace Coal for Reliable Modern Electricity Grid,” found that speed of deployment and long-term pricing stability are among the chief reasons such technologies are a more effective way to control and reduce energy costs—not to mention emissions—as opposed to natural gas power plants. Natural gas power plants are currently more cost-effective than coal-based power, but, like all fossil fuels, the fuel is subject to pricing fluctuation.
“The shift away from coal, and the ongoing retirement of aging coal plants, presents our country with an historic opportunity,” said Starla Yeh, the report’s co-author and a senior policy analyst in NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air Program. “The U.S. is perfectly positioned to lead a global transition to clean energy, modernize its electricity grid, enlist tens of thousands of Americans in new efficiency and clean energy jobs—and help protect the planet from climate devastation.”
Yet, controversially, Trump is attempting to revitalize the coal industry regardless of the cost. Even the coal industry realizes that its days of record profits and employment are numbered. NRDC observed that Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., has previously stated that coal employment "Can't be brought back to where it was before the election of Barack Obama.”
But it’s not only the coal industry that realizes it’s time for a change. The utility sector also realizes it needs to make changes to meet customer demand. For instance, Brian Corbett, a spokesperson for DTE Energy, said: "Many of our coal plants are aging and need to be replaced with cleaner, modern generating technologies, which is what our customers are asking of us and we plan to continue working to achieve these goals.”
It’s a strategy that’s already proving cost effective, according to at least one report. NRDC’s report, which looked at other reports, including a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) across the country are saving consumers money. The report found that RPSs saved Americans $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion in 2013, for instance, from lower natural gas prices. The same study also said that the RPSs supported nearly 200,000 renewable energy-related jobs, provided $5.2 billion in health benefits thanks to improved air quality, and resulted in global climate benefits of $2.2 billion.
The report found that promoting energy efficiency in appliances, buildings and lighting can save even more money and energy for US consumers. The report also found that over the past seven years alone, costs of generating electricity from wind and solar have dropped 66 percent and 85 percent, respectively. It added that those figures include capital outlay, maintenance costs and financing. Given that these technologies are expected to see even further price drops and efficiency increases, they will help lower energy costs even more than natural gas can in the future.Tweet