America’s Renewable Energy Capacity Now Greater than Coal: report
America’s coal industry is facing an existential threat following the rise in natural gas and renewable energy projects in the pipeline, according to a new report.
The report, was handed down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission - FERC- and illustrated that the renewable energy sector had more installed capacity than the coal sector in April, 2019.
That means, according to non-profit research group the Sun Day Campaign, that US power plants have - for the first time in history - the ability to produce more energy from clean sources than coal.
According to the FERC report, coal’s total available installed generation stood at 257.48-gigawatts. The renewable energy sector, including solar, wind, water, biomass and geothermal means of producing energy just took the lead by representing 257.53-gigawatts of installed capacity.
No coal-fired power plants were added to the grid this year, while FERC numbers show total solar units increased by 102 - or 1,473 megawatts - and wind also grew by 18 units, or 1,545 megawatts.
“Coal has no technology path,” Jeff McDermott, managing partner at Greentech Capital Advisors said.
“It’s got nowhere to go but extinction,” he added. “Renewables are going to get cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. We’re not done,” he concluded.
Another report issued by the Institute for Energy Economics shows that the renewable sector generated more electricity than the coal industry, driven partially by seasonal changes as the US moves into summer conditions.
According to statistics from the Energy Information Agency - EIA - published by CNN’s Matt Egan, “America has drastically cut back on its appetite for coal. Since peaking in 2008, US coal consumption has plunged 39% to the lowest level in 40 years.”
Matthew Hoza of BTU Analytics says that it’s inevitable that “we’re going to eventually see renewables surpass coal across the country.”
“The government can tap the brakes or accelerate this movement - but this progress will continue moving forward,” he said.
“For the most part, the public is calling for renewables.”
It’s important to note that the FERC report measures capacity and not the amount of power generation. As Matt Egan puts it, “just because renewable power has the potential to generate this much electricity doesn’t mean that it actually will - at least, not yet,” he said.
“Renewable generation isn’t expected to surpass coal on an annual basis for several years,” he added.
Egan does however concede that “power companies are increasingly relenting to pressure from customers and states to adopt cleaner energy,” he said, citing moves from Con Edison, one of the world’s largest investor-owned utilities who has acquired $2.1-billion worth of solar and wind projects last year alone- making it the second-largest solar producer in North America.