Who Killed Coal in America?

The coal industry in the US is almost dead, but it wasn’t renewables that killed it.

“The biggest contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements has been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation,” says a recent report by the Department of Energy.

It also found that the rise of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, hasn’t yet created any problems for reliability and resilience of the electricity grid. The report also recommends that the department shouldn’t intervene in energy markets, such as using funds to support coal.

Between 2012 and 2017, the US shut approximately 50 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generation capacity. If planned retirements are taken into consideration, the future for coal looks even bleaker.

When President Obama was in office he created the Clean Power Plan which was aimed at lowering the CO2 emissions from the US by capturing some of the carbon emitted and increasing the mix of renewable forms of energy like Wind and Solar. In March of 2017, the Trump administration repealed this hoping it would, as he said “save the coal industry” however the report from the DOE suggests otherwise. 

Their report predicts into the future we’ll see more and more natural gas and less coal and nuclear. One of the main reasons is because of how much more efficient Natural Gas is compared to Coal and Nuclear. While Coal and Nuclear are similar regarding the heat generated during the process of creating electricity, the heat generated using Natural Gas has continued to decline, giving it a greater overall efficiency.

The nail in the coffin for the solar industry could be renewables which combined with Natural Gas, will deliver the final blow the coal industry, laying it to rest once and for all. #hallelujah

A big reason for this is because of the cost of renewables. Some forecasts suggest that the levelized average cost of electricity (LCOE) per kWh will drop significantly by 2025 making Solar from PhotoVoltaic panels and onshore wind the cheapest in the world.
And we’re already seeing a huge spike in Solar investments here in the US in recent years, now accepting for almost 10% of the overall grid.

So I want to say thank you to Rick Perry, for ordering this study and helping us move closer towards a brighter future where not only is our energy better for the environment, but cheaper and more sustainable as well. In fact, he will probably come around once he realizes how many more jobs the renewable energy industry is creating. His own department put out a report in showing that the Solar industry alone employed more than double the number of coal employees across the US.

Like any high-level figures though, this metric didn’t tell the true story as there was a job disparity across the states. Coal was by far the bigger employer in some areas still. But the point here is that there is indeed a big market for energy workers in the US and just because the Coal industry is vanishing, it doesn’t mean the jobs will vanish as well, they’ll likely just change slightly. 

Sources

NYT – Todays Energy Jobs Are in Solar Not Coal

New DOE Report Explains Why Coal is Dying

Related