Renewable energy is ramping up fast in the US. Coal continues its historic and irreversible decline. It’s done, and not ever coming back. Natural gas is replacing coal. Right now, natural gas is cheap, so new plants are being built. No, it’s not clean. However it’s way cleaner than coal. Happily, new wind and solar power facilities are coming online, increasingly being combined with battery backup which is now grid-scale. These wind and solar plants are often cheaper than coal or natural gas to build and maintain. Yes, cheaper.
Hydropower is still the biggest source of renewable energy, and is a bit controversial because big hydro can have seriously adverse environmental effects. Lakes silt up. Local ecology gets disrupted. Some dams are so huge that their weight and the weight of the water can cause earthquakes. Wind, not solar, is the second biggest form of renewable energy. And, offshore wind in the Northeast is finally at long last happening at grid scale.
All data from Business Council for Sustainable Energy Factbook
Natural gas boomed. The most new gas-fired power-generating capacity was added in 14 years propelling it to a record 35% of the country’s power generation.
Renewables grew in volume and importance. Installations of new mostly wind and solar capacity in 2018 hit 19.5GW.
Wind is the largest single source of zero-carbon power-generating capacity in the U.S. Total wind installations are essentially level with nuclear in terms of capacity.
Coal’s decline continued. Its contribution to overall power generation fell to 27%, the lowest in the post-WWII era. Meanwhile, another 13GW of existing plants announced or completed retirement, the second most in U.S. history.
The power sector continued to de-carbonize. Renewables + natural gas growth – coal = a less carbon-intensive U.S. power sector. Total electricity consumed in the U.S. rose 2.2% in 2018 while CO2 emissions from power plants rose just 0.6%.
The U.S. retains a competitive advantage on industrial power prices. The U.S. is second only to Canada with the lowest industrial electricity prices among the G7 nations.
Battery storage costs fell further. Lithium-ion battery prices dropped another 18% year- on-year, boosting both EVs and stationary storage applications and encouraging electric utilities to sign power purchase agreements pairing storage with solar and wind.
Corporates continued to drive demand for sustainable energy. Retailers, major technology firms, and even an oil major contracted record