2019 has been a historical year for the renewable energy sector as energy generation through renewables has surpassed energy generation from coal-fired power plants. In 2008, coal was the major contributor in USA’s energy generation mix, but since then, it has been reduced to 39 percent, the lowest level in 40 years.
The future of USA’s energy generation industry is renewable energy according to a recent report published by the Institute For Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). The report does not present an encouraging pictures for the struggling coal-fired energy generation industry.
Coal, which had a greater energy generation mix in USA had first been overtaken by Natural Gas in 2016, a relatively cleaner fossil fuel, now has succumbed by renewable energy mostly through wind and solar power.
According to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) report, renewable energy sector has slightly more installed capacity than coal. The report also states that the total available installed energy generation capacity of coal remained at 257.48 gigawatts while renewable energy generation capacity climbed to 257.53 gigawatts.
The FERC report indicates that the analysis carried out has not taken the actual amount of power generated, instead it has measured capacity. An important factor to know about renewable energy is that it has a relatively lower capacity utilization than other conventional fuel sources.
While looking at the energy sector, no new coal-fired energy generation plants were commissioned in the energy mix this year, while more than 3,000 megawatts renewable energy units were installed, comprising of 1,473 megawatts solar energy and 1,545 megawatts wind energy units.
This breakthrough is due to lower investment cost of renewable energy technology specially solar and wind energy products. Another main factor is also due to the growing concern of global warming and climate change.
According to sources,
“We’re going to eventually see renewables surpass coal across the country.” – Mathew Hoza of BTU Analytics
“Coal has no technology path. It’s got nowhere to go but extinction.” – Jeff McDermott of Greentech Capital Advisors
USA has finally cut back on conventional fossil fuels specially coal despite updates provided by President Donald Trump encouraging coal in The Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Most Americans care about the environment and are supporting renewable energy. Now the its the government who has to decide either it should be reluctant or it should follow the needs of the public by accelerating and encouraging the renewable energy (clean) movement to progress rapidly.
Rising demand of solar and wind energy
Energy produced through coal-fired plants face the problem of economics. Huge costs are involved in the coal based projects which include installation, managing the coal supply chain and operations and maintenance costs. With this perspective in mind more and more investors are shifting towards renewable energy.
An average age of a coal-fired energy generating plant is about 40 years and according to experts coal-fired plants are phased out after 60 years. With each passing year these plants require more and more maintenance and constant equipment up-gradation. This to an average investor does not look like a lucrative deal. According to Energy Innovation, 74% of USA’s coal industry could be replaced by renewable energy if the U.S government encourages investors.
According to Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the transmission operator running the system that supplies 90% of Texas electric load, wind and solar generation topped coal’s output in the first quarter of 2019, the first time that this has happened on a quarterly basis. Overall, wind and solar energy capacity generated 19.41 million megawatt-hour during the first quarter, beating the 18.97 million megawatt-hour pumped out by the state’s coal-fired plants.
Looking at President Trump’s statements and the stance of the Democratic party regarding climate change and renewable energy, seemingly indicates a rift between policies. But is the renewable energy transition actually a political struggle? Are efforts to shift from fossil fuels mainly due to economic reasons or has the renewable energy lobby in Washington grown stronger.
According to a 2016 study by the Pew Research Center, it was found that 83 percent of conservative Republicans and 97 percent of liberal Democrats support solar energy farms. With the growing support for the renewable energy sector across the U.S, Conservative states are also as likely to support renewable energy and energy efficiency policies as liberal states, according to a 2016 study led by researchers at Vanderbilt University.
Support for renewable energy among Democrats largely stems from environmental concerns but reasoning behind Republicans’ support is less well understood.
Several surveys and interviews have been conducted by major companies to better understand the support for renewable energy among both conservatives and liberals. Among them, Horne and Kennedy conducted in-person interviews at the homes of 64 registered Democrats and Republicans across Washington state.
It was found that among conservatives, renewable energy is viewed as a financially viable option and an efficient way to use resources.
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