Coal in the US is ridiculously expensive

A coal plant burns in Cheswick, Pennsylvania.
photo: Jeff Swensen (Getty Images)

Almost all coal plants operating in the U.S. are now more expensive to keep online than it would be to build entirely new renewable energy facilities in their place, according to a new analysis by Energy innovation, energy and policy firm. The analysis found that 99% of US coal plants ssupply energy that would be cheaper if these plants were closed and replaced with wind farms or solar fields.

“Coal is clearly more expensive than wind and solar, it’s just not competitive with renewables anymore,” Michelle Solomon, policy analyst at Energy Innovation, told the Guardian. “This report certainly challenges the narrative that coal is here to stay.”

In 2020, the country reached a point where the report refers to as a “cost crossover” when renewables overtook coal on the US grid. Energy Innovation has been running analyzes since this year looking at the cost of these coal plants compared to new renewable energy. A 2020 analysis found that 62% of the coal fleet is more expensive to operate than if replaced with renewables; in 2021, that number has grown to 71%.

There’s a big new factor in this year’s analysis: the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides significant tax credits for building new renewable energy sources, as well as loan guarantees to replace fossil fuel infrastructure. Thanks in part to these incentives, the Energy Innovation Analysis found that of the 210 coal plants still operating in the country, only one—a plant in Wyoming—produces power at a cost that is competitive with that of any is local wind, solar or both. And many of these potential renewable installations would be a a lot cheaper; new wind or solar installations would be about 30% cheaper than about three-quarters of existing coal plants.

US coal use, the world’s leading source of carbon emissions, peaked in 2007; since then, its use has been on a downward trajectory, falling about 55% in production by 2021. While right-wing narratives blame climate concerns, especially Obama administration policies, for coal’s decline, the explanation is actually much simpler: free market competition from other energy sources. During the 2010 fracking boom, natural gas suddenly became much cheaper than coal, while at the same time the cost of renewables like wind and solar fell. Even President Donald Trump who took office vow to put the miners back to work producing ‘beautiful clean coal’ – and who gave the industry a a lot of the free ones and second chances while he was in the office – I couldn’t turn the market hand.

“We can’t just snap our fingers and retire all coal plants, but we need to accelerate the build-out of wind and solar so that when the time comes, we can move away from coal,” Solomon told the Guardian.

#Coal #ridiculously #expensive

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button