A four-year old post showed clean energy progress is happening

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act which includes very significant renewable energy funding is a huge step forward. Even Republican legislators who were told not to vote for it, are silently celebrating the needed investment in their states that will be forthcoming.

Four years ago, I wrote the following post which sheds progress at the same time the former president was pulling the US away from the adult table on fighting climate change. President Joe Biden has gotten us back to that table and helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act. Please note the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has caused some hiccups to the progress with Russia punishing its critics with fossil-fuel restrictions, but the progress continues.

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“Global citizens are rightfully concerned the US President Donald Trump is pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord, but progress continues as “we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy.” Even the US pullout cannot stop the train, as states, cities, businesses and other countries continue the push. It just means the President and his team will not be at the adult table on this issue and may not be invited at all.

Here are a few miscellaneous energy tidbits that should offer encouragement.

Per the UK Based organization Carbon Tracker, here are a few highlights from the past year:

  • more than 1/2 of the US coal plants in existence in 2010 have been closed;
  • more than 1/2 of the remaining coal plants in Europe are losing money;
  • the UK has slashed electricity from coal usage from 40% to 2% in the last five years; and
  • there have been big strides in China and Australia on reducing coal usage.

Per the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the five member, Republican dominated agency denied the request by Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to fund the building of more coal-fired and nuclear plants. This was a surprise move given the make-up of the committee. I would call this decision as not wanting to throw good money after bad.

It should be noted, it is not just coal that is giving the FERC commissioners pause. The US division of Westinghouse Electric Company had to declare bankruptcy for cost overruns on a new nuclear power plant for SCANA, the South Carolina utility. As a result, the new plant is being shuttered and SCANA is being sold to Dominion Resources, so as not to overburden SC citizens with the cost of the lost investment.

The International Energy Agency in their 2017 Energy Outlook notes the cost of new solar photovoltaic electricity has declined by 70% and wind energy has fallen 25% since 2010. It should be noted the IEA has tended to favor fossil fuel energy in past releases. China, the new country leader in the climate change fight, will be investing US$360 billion more in renewable energy by 2020. Plus, the price of solar has fallen so much in places like Zambia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, it has won bidding contests against fossil fuel energy sources for projects.

Finally, any discussion on future energy cannot exclude the declining cost and increasing capacity in battery storage. Per Bloomberg New Energy Financials, energy storage will double six times between 2016 and 2030. Elon Musk just helped southern Australia go live with a major battery installation and 21 states in the US have planned projects on energy storage.

All of the above stories are important because it has always been a financial argument to combat the environmental concerns, whose long term costs have been undervalued. Now, the financials are favoring the renewable energy engine, so market forces will continue to force the ultimate demise of coal-fired energy, which started with the lower cost of natural gas. If a company can find a clean energy source which is cheaper and more predictable long term, that is easily the better path forward. If you don’t believe me, just ask companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart and IKEA to name only a few.”

9 thoughts on “A four-year old post showed clean energy progress is happening

  1. It is a shame when politics deny renewable energies because of the costs. In the end, it costs more to stick with the old because it ruins our living space. We need to invest something to make it better for later.

    • Erika, true. But, a key point is the cost of renewables is much more comparable production-wise and beats the pants off coal when all costs are factored in. Any new coal facility built today is obsolete by the time it is finished. As for nuclear, Westinghouse went under trying to build a new plant. It is far easier to build an infrastructure to support solar and wind. Keith

  2. This movement to renewable is continuing good news, particularly in the light of the release of the following study:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-62892013

    In the UK there is a move to continue to use nuclear power to some extent, I suspect there is a type of strategic thinking behind this, as an island state needing to be self-sufficient.
    As you can see, Keith, from the following summary; the issue in the UK is very complex.

    And our government seems also intent on reviving the fracking programme, which is definitely a NIMBY that cuts across all our political ranks.

    • Thanks Roger. The higher cost story no longer applies as the costs for renewables have fallen so dramatically. That along with the improved battery storage has paved the way. I love the southern Australian energy story where Chinese solar panels were used by a French designer along with American battery storage to power the entire region. Thanks for your comment and link. Keith

  3. Clean and green is fine, if you can make it work and it’s reliable. I worry about getting ahead of ourselves, with many “woke” cities passing laws against using natural gas for cooking and heating in new construction, and even requiring retrofits to older housing to go all electric. Until we rebuild our electric grid, and make it super reliable, it is foolish to move away from fairly clean burning natural gas to all electric. During an earthquake or hurricane/tornado, if power goes out, if you have a mix of electricity and natural gas to homes, at least people can still stay warm and cook without power. Nothing is worse than sitting in the dark and the cold.

    • Thanks for your comment. Infrastructure is key as you stated. A downplayed reason Texas is getting 20% of its electricity now from wind energy is the legislature funded the expansion of the grid to harness the wind power. Iowa is now getting 43% of its electricity from wind energy with other plains states in the 30% range, so we are further along than folks know. With that said, as we move down the path it has to be sustainable as you note. Natural gas has bought us time as oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said ten years ago, but he felt the future of American power is wind. Along with solar energy, we can do so much more, especially with the battery storage improving through folks like Tesla. Thanks again for your thoughts. Keep them coming. Keith

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