Renewables Set to Surpass Coal For First Time in US

According to the Energy Information Administration’s latest short-term energy outlook report, in April, the electricity generated by wind, solar, hydropower, biomass and geothermal plants in the U.S. are projected to top coal power’s output by about 16 percentAnd the trend is expected to continue, even if the monthly output from coal is higher than renewables from time to time.

  • According to CNN, coal’s share of total power generation dropped from 45% in 2010 to 28% in 2018 and is expected to decrease to just 24% in 2020.
  • Dennis Wamsted of The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said in a blog post that this “represents a momentous development driven by the deep transition underway in the electric generation arena.”  

According to The Environmental Working Group (EWG), “the costs of wind and solar power are falling quickly and sharply: Within the past decade, the cost of solar power dropped by nearly 90 percent and wind power by nearly 70 percent. By contrast, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study a year ago found that half of U.S. coal plants are not making enough money to stay open in a free market.”

  • “The market has spoken loudly: The competition for America’s energy future is over, and coal has lost,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Why, then, do President Trump and some short-sighted lawmakers want to prop up a loser?”
  • For example, Xcel Energy (XEL) has shut down a quarter of its coal power plants already and recently announced a plan to deliver zero-carbon electricity by 2050 — an ambitious goal that will require plenty of wind and solar energy.
  • Wind is already beating fossil fuel alternatives — even with low natural gas prices,” Xcel CEO Ben Fowke recently told CNN.

Why This Matters: The Trump administration, and lawmakers in some states, continue to push huge taxpayer-financed bailouts to money-losing coal plants, which in turn drives climate change and is a severe threat to public health.  This surge in renewable power was not even imaginable five years ago, but now it is inconceivable that coal could ever come back and Trump’s promises to the contrary are more and more farcical.  This is strong evidence that carbon neutrality in the U.S. in the next 25 years is not a pipe dream.

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