Texas’ Clean Energy is Driving Electricity Prices Down
Residential prices for electricity have dropped this year for the first time since 2002, despite worries that shutting down coal-fired power plants and relying more on wind and solar would ruin the economy, according the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Prices are down 0.7 percent this year, the EIA said Thursday. That’s a reversal of the last five years, when electricity costs rose on average 1.9 percent annually.
This it not what the defenders of burning coal said would happen. Placing new emissions regulations on coal-fired plants would drive up costs, they said, as generators had to build new natural gas plants and rely on renewable sources, which in most cases cost more than coal.
The cost of natural gas and renewable resources, though, are going down fast and all forecasts show wind and solar becoming cheaper. Burning natural gas in place of coal has also lowered U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, a key greenhouse gas.
Meanwhile, coal producers are going out of business with no apparent harm to the national economy, though causing devastation in coal communities.
The United States is not the only country weaning itself off dirty coal. The United Kingdom from March to September produced more electricity from solar panels than from coal, an achievement once thought unthinkable.
“The first ever day when solar produced more than coal was only on 9 April – when there was no coal-fired electricity for the first time since 1882,” The Independent newspaper reported. “But then May became the first ever month when this happened.”
China announced Thursday that the government had cancelled the construction of 15 coal-fired power plants, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
“China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to bring its emissions to a peak by around 2030, as part of its commitments to a global climate change pact signed in Paris last year,” Reuters reported.
All of this points to progress toward meeting the world’s obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, which will go into force Nov. 4, after a group of nations ratified the agreement this week.
While there will always be some uses for coal, the era of the world burning rocks for electricity is coming to an end. And it is not going to cost us as much as we’d thought.