Renewable energy has become cheaper than coal

An article in The Guardian caught my eye yesterday, entitled “‘Coal is on the way out’: study finds fossil fuel now pricier than solar or wind.” This is not surprising to me as the production costs of solar and wind energy have significantly dropped over time, yet it likely catches some as a big surprise. Per the article:

“Around three-quarters of US coal production is now more expensive than solar and wind energy in providing electricity to American households, according to a new study.

‘Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,’ said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. ‘Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.'”

When all of the costs are factored in, coal is even more expensive than indicated above. For example, coal energy continues to be costly long after it is burned through ash maintenance, leakage and litigation. Yet, now production costs are largely higher for coal than renewables. As the article notes the decline of coal is passed the tipping point.

But, don’t just take the word of this article. In the first two years of the Trump Presidency, more coal plants have been closed than in the entire first four-year term of Obama’s Presidency. This would have happened anyway regardless of who was President, but I mention Trump as even someone who campaigned on keeping coal plants open cannot stave off this trend.

If that is insufficient, note there are currently more than four times the number of solar jobs than coal jobs in the US. And, the wind energy jobs are growing very quickly in the Midwest, with Texas, Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota among others leading the way. In an article called “Will 2019 be the year of the turbine – wind energy continues to surge in Texas” in the Caller Times, in 2017 Texas provided about 15% of its energy through wind and has and will continue to increase that percentage in 2018 and beyond.

I feel for the coal miners, but they are owed the truth and help in retraining for new jobs and some transitional financial support. In the same areas where coal is found, the wind blows and sun shines. I implore legislators to help invest in the new economy in these areas. This should have been happening all along as this trend is not new.



6 thoughts on “Renewable energy has become cheaper than coal

  1. Yes, those coal mines hold a lot of jobs but at the same time we need to do something for our environment and as you said, those workers need support to get new education and as a result different jobs. The future lies and needs to lie in renewable and sustainable energies!

  2. I’m not surprised … but admit I am pleased. What does not please me, however, is the blinders our own government are wearing to the detriment of not only the U.S., but the entire globe. Trump is still determined to even go so far as to subsidize coal if he can. I, too, feel sorry for the coal miners, and have some in-laws in Wise County Virginia who are displaced coal miners. But, during the Obama years, plans were made to offer re-training in coal mining areas, but Trump canceled that plan quickly after taking office. And guess what … those coal miners and their families who would have benefited from the plan … they voted for Trump! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

    • Jill, your comment on the retraining is true. Trump’s first budget stripped the training.

      The demise of coal was started when activists derailed cookie-cutter approval processes during the Bush era making the DOE do its homework. In essence a trade off was agreed if a new cleaner coal plant was to be built, an old one which was more polluting had to be retired.

      Then natural gas accelerated the demise of coal as it was cheaper. Utilities retooled to burn natural gas rather than coal. Finally, the renewables price has dropped to stick a fork in coal. It would be foolish of a utility to build a coal fired plant that will be obsolete when it goes live.

      This last paragraph was discussed by none other than oil man T. Boone Pickens on “60 Minutes” about eight years ago. He said natural gas will buy time, but the future of energy in the windy plains’ states is wind energy.


  3. Dear Keith,

    This is indeed good news. I hate it when folks like coal miners and manufacturing workers are being told that these jobs are coming back when they’re not. That’s why President Trump telling the 5000 plus who lost their jobs at a GM plant in Lordstown, OH, not to move as their jobs will be coming back is so cruel, as he’s too foolish to realize he can’t keep these promises. He probably doesn’t even care. There are numerous reasons why this is true, such as AI Artificial Intelligence, advances in technology, changes in the marketplace like renewable energy being less expensive than that of coal.

    While the GOP Lawmakers and others point their fingers to ridicule the GND plan (Green New Deal) by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), at least it is SOMETHING. It’s like the ACA. These GOP legislators in the US Congress have no plans to offer as an alternative to the ACA and the GND.

    They are the party devoid of any new ideas.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, on too many occasions, parties personify an idea and try to defeat the person. If they showed Al Gore lived in a big home, global warming must be a hoax. Calling the ACA Obamacare allows critics to use feelings some have against Obama. AOC is a convenient target for all ideas like the GND. So, it is criticized because she has been painted as a devil. To me, this is sophisticated name-calling revealing a dearth of ideas.

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