Cheaper Wind and Solar Power Threat to Coal

Even though Trump administration”s announcement late last year to reverse Obama-era coal emissions rule to make it easier for new coal plants to open up it comes a little to late to save the coal industry due to the continued lowering in production costs of wind, solar and natural gas production.

Mike O’Boyle, director of electricity policy at Energy Innovation, told CNN Business that US coal plants are in greater danger than ever and almost three fourths of the US coal plants are like the ‘walking dead.’

The states at greatest risk with the highest amount of coal plants are North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Texas. Competition from local solar and wind production of electrical power threatens the coal industry in these states as renewable energy churns out as much electricity as coal but more cheaply.

Renewable energy in the form of wind and solar power invented to reduce the carbon imprint on the environment has over the last decade fiercely dethroned the power of coal which had been a longtime king of the power industry.

First of all, solar prices have plunged around 90% over the last ten years and it is projected to continue declining according to reports from Energy Innovation. This decline has been aided by a rise made by investors in clean energy.  

And according to government statistics, at the same time power generation from coal fired power plants has plunged from 48 percent in 2008 down to 28 in 2018.

According to a January report published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), for the next two years, the fastest growing source of US electricity generation will be through renewable energy.

O’Boyle reports that now the biggest threat to the coal industry is not regulations but economics.

Furthermore, the coal industry in Midwesternstates such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin are expected to be under high amounts of pressure from renewable energy by 2025.

This pressure comes from households and businesses increasing demands for clean energy due to concerns about climate change resulting in the installation of more solar panels and wind power.  This is expected to grow by 44 percent over the next two years the EIA reports.

Pressure against power generation from coal fired power plants is also coming from US states and voters who want clean energy power.  New Mexico, California and Hawaii are some of the states that have recently passed 100 percent clean energy targets. These states are making ambitious clean energy solutions in wind, solar and even natural gas.

Natural gas is cleaner than coal as a burning fossil fuel and  it is in great abundance due to the shale revolution which helped natural gas surpass coal as America’s leading power source in 2016.