According to The Guardian, the usage of coal as an energy source is declining. In fact, it’s becoming more expensive to utilize than renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, which is becoming more prevalent for electricity production in American households.
Based on information from the Energy Information Agency, 211 gigawatts of current U.S. coal capacity, or 74 percent of the coal fleet, is “providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar.” The Guardian says that within the next five to six years, wind and solar energy will outcompete the U.S. coal system, even when figuring the cost of new wind turbines and solar panels.
The Guardian also reports that electricity generation from clean sources has doubled since 2008; a bulk of those sources come from hydro and wind power. “Renewables now account for around 17 percent of U.S. electricity generation, with coal’s share declining.”
What decision makers should keep in mind:
While multiple industries are making great strides investing in renewable resources for power, The Guardian doesn’t think coal will be leaving any time soon, particularly in the U.S. This is mostly due to both federal and state government investments and recommendations. For example, the Trump administration is “sympathetic” towards the decline of coal, which means the U.S. isn’t on track to eliminate coal, like it is in some European countries, The Guardian says.
Plus, there are still institutions, like banks, that are still investing in fossil fuels. According to The Guardian, “A recent report released by a coalition of environmental groups found that 33 global banks have provided $1.9tn in finance to coal, oil and gas companies since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.”
As a result, decision makers, especially those located in the U.S., may not see a minimized carbon footprint, at least for a long time. The Guardian says that the Energy Information Agency predicts “that US carbon dioxide emissions from energy will remain similar to current levels until 2050, with coal consumption dropping but then leveling off beyond 2020.”
However, other decision makers are making moves to increase renewable energy usage; states like California and Hawaii have committed to 100 percent renewable energy and are taking steps to smoothly transition away from coal plants and other fossil fuel businesses. Mike O’Boyle, co-author of the reports for the Energy Innovation Agency, told The Guardian that the most visible changes towards a cleaner environment will be seen once governments start stepping up.
“It would be better if we had a federal cohesive policy because not all states will take the initiative,” he said. “In order to get an affordable, clean energy system we need both federal and state actors involved.”