‘Seven disruptions’ across electricity markets continue to drive clean-energy transition
A new report finds momentum around “seven disruptions” across the U.S. electricity-generation so strong as to create conditions that will displace coal from power markets sooner than many experts realize. The combined effects of energy efficiency, solar, wind, fracking, grid integration, grid independence, and storage spell the end of an era, writes the author: “Taken together, these disruptions signal a permanent structural decline for coal in the U.S. They indicate a future in which no new coal plants will be built the U.S., and retirements among the existing and aging coal power fleet will continue unabated.”
Biggest U.S. carmaker is turning to renewables to run its factories
General Motors, the biggest carmaker in the U.S., is moving aggressively to source electricity for its factories from renewables instead of traditional fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The shift is driven by cost considerations at manufacturing facilities that make pickups and SUVs in Illinois and Ohio. “Wind and solar are the lowest cost resource,” a GE executive said. “We’re buying into long-term contracts that have no fuel components, so we can put price stability in the cost to build these vehicles.”
Texas county anticipates millions in revenue from newest wind project
Cameron County, Texas, which encompasses the southernmost corner of the state, is anticipating collecting $40 million in tax revenue over the course of the 25-year life of the area’s newest windfarm. Property owners will make an additional $44 million in lease payments from the project, which will generate enough electricity to power 46,000 homes. “It’s a win-win,” one official said.
Legislative proposal in Colorado to hasten coal-plant retirements
A bill being considered by state legislators in Colorado would incentivize utilities to adopt a special bonding mechanism to help finance coal-plant retirements. The proposal, which would securitize debt among many investors, would include revenue earmarked for communities services affected by transition. “This is not some liberal fantasy,” says the lawmaker sponsoring the proposal. “This is all hard math.”
Commentary: ‘Another Texas coal-plant closing, another market signal’
An announcement last week by American Electric Power that it will close the 650-megawatt Oklaunion coal plant in north-central Texas by 2020 is just the latest indication of a shrinking sector of the U.S. electricity-generation industry. It is the most recent in a string of coal-plant closures in the state. “The markets, imperfect as they may be, want wind and solar,” writes the author.
Report: Planned closures of FirstEnergy coal plants won’t affect grid reliability
PJM Interconnect, which operates the electricity grid in Pennsylvania and 13 other states, has concluded that when FirstEnergy retires its coal-fired power plants in the region the move will have no effect on service. The company has announced plans to close the Bruce Mansfield plant outside Pittsburgh, the W.H. Sammis plant in eastern Ohio and the Pleasants Power plant in northern West Virginia.
A difficult transition looms in northwest New Mexico
San Juan County, N.M., stands to lose 10 percent of its total property tax revenues when the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station closes in 2022, and the plant’s retirement will cost the area 1,500 jobs and $105 million in lost wages. State legislators are now drafting bills to bring relief funding to the region as local officials seek help. “We're looking to lose coal," the mayor of Farmington recently said.
Rising coal prices are helping drive uptake of renewables
In a reflection of global trends, coal prices in Europe are rising, making other electricity-generation options more attractive, according to analysts, investors, and utility executives. “There’s no new coal being built in western Europe, and probably not in the U.S.,” said Gonzalo Garcia, co-head of the global natural resources group at Goldman Sachs Group. “Renewables are clearly going to be the largest share of the electricity market.’’
Analysis: ‘Downtrend in coal consumption will continue’
Coal consumption last year by U.S. power producers hit its lowest mark since 1983 as coal’s market share of power generation fell to 30 percent from a peak of 57 percent in 1988. One analysts sees the trend as irreversible as utilities abandon coal for natural gas and renewables: “Unless the federal government steps in to ensure coal-fired power plants run, even when they are more expensive than natural gas, the downtrend in coal consumption will continue.”
Editorial: Coal companies that betray coal miners
In lobbying for a reduction from $1.10 to 50 cents per ton in the excise tax it pays to support the national Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, the U.S. coal industry is seeking a break because it is struggling and because coal executives think too many miners are filing claims. “Both arguments are indefensible. Miners’ health costs are not to blame for the coal industry’s financial troubles; the problem is competition from natural gas, wind and solar power. And black lung disease is easy to distinguish from smoking-related lung damage. It’s outrageous for the industry to shirk its responsibility to help the workers whose health it has destroyed.”