A landmark moment was recently reached in the U.S. when for the first time in the country’s history, according to data collated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and an analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics renewable energy such as hydro, solar and wind outproduced coal power.
The old saying that renewables cannot compete with traditional fossil fuel energy is now nothing but a myth.
However, let’s not get too carried away with the recent results as it’s all about timing, the U.S. is now in spring, so as the snow melts hydropower plants reach their peak output, and at the same time the country’s vast number of coal plants shut down for upgrades and maintenance at this time of year. With this in mind, it would be fair to say that renewables can’t compete with coal all year round for now, but the writing is on the wall.
Another key factor to take into account is how much cheaper renewables have become coupled with an ever-growing increase in power output. Technology and innovation advancements in the wind and solar energy industry over the last 30-years have led to these sources of energy becoming a lot more cost effective and more attractive to potential investors.
A change is most definitely on the horizon as ageing coal plants in the U.S. begin to reach the end of their lifespan resulting in a significant increase in maintenance costs, which has to be passed on to the utility companies, making the coal option an unprofitable one. Coal prices have stagnated over the last 10-years which means the opportunity to make money is no longer a viable one.
Studies across several regions in the U.S. have reported that it is now actually cheaper to decommission an existing coal plant, thus ceasing coal production and replace it with a renewable energy plant. Over the last few years, several notable coal plants have been decommissioned and replaced with a cheaper cleaner alternative energy facility.
For 2019, renewable energy will only outpace coal for just a few months. However, as the rapid growth continues in the industry, we can expect it to outpace the fossil fuel every month, eventually becoming the only energy source we will use in a few decades time.