It’s been a bad week for the U.S. coal industry. On Monday, Michigan-based Consumers Energy announced that it planned to close all its remaining coal-fired generation by 2040; the company already had closed seven of its 12 coal plants in 2016. Then, on Tuesday, Vectren, an electric and gas utility serving parts of Indiana and Ohio, said it planned to retire three of its coal-fired plants and sell its ownership stake in a fourth by 2023; this from a company that just two years ago was dependent on coal for 90 percent of its generation.
But this week is hardly unique. Just last Friday, FirstEnergy said it was going to close or sell the 1,300 megawatt coal-fired Pleasants plant in West Virginia by Jan. 1, 2019 after being unable to convince federal regulators to approve a deal between two of the Akron, Ohio-based holding company’s subsidiaries that effectively would have moved the facility from the open market into rate base, forcing consumers to pay for the plant even if it was no longer economic.
Not to be forgotten, earlier this month, AEP announced plans to slash its carbon dioxide emissions 60 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 (based on a 2000 baseline, see my story here). And finally, on Jan. 30, PPL announced plans to reduce its CO2 emissions by 70 percent by 2050 (based on a 2010 baseline).
So, in reality, it’s been a bad month, and similar months are likely moving forward.
Continue reading Another Bad Week,
Make That Month,
For The Coal Industry
President Trump, with his fossil fuel fantasists in tow, made it official Thursday, announcing that he would pull the United States from the Paris climate change accord in order to “make America great again.” The administration’s inability, as well as that of most of the Republican Party in general, to come to grips with climate change is sad, but that will have to wait for a future post. The issue at hand is the decision’s likely negative impact on the U.S.’ already-battered nuclear and coal industries.
For years the nuclear industry has been making the case that it was vital to the country’s climate change mitigation efforts because of its emissions-free generation profile. While accounting for just 20 percent of the nation’s annual electric generation, the industry noted ad infinitum, it was responsible for 60 percent of the carbon dioxide-free emissions (see chart below). In a carbon-constrained world, that would be a valuable attribute. But the Trump administration has now made it clear that it places no value on CO2-free generation sources.
That, in turn, could be a major problem for the industry, as the effort to secure nuclear subsidies—successful so far in Illinois and New York (although now tied up in court), still pending in Ohio, Connecticut and now Pennsylvania—has relied in large part on the sector’s glowing greenhouse gas attributes. In an interesting twist, just before the administration’s head-in-the-sand announcement, Chicago-based Exelon said it would close the 837-megawatt Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in late 2019 because the facility couldn’t compete in the PJM electricity market, which sprawls across 13 states and the District of Columbia. The company largely blamed the market’s structure, including its failure to reward the plant for its emissions-free generation, for its decision to shutter the plant.
Continue reading Trump Paris About-Face Likely To Hurt, Not Help Nuclear, Coal Sectors
It is easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutia of the revolution under way in the energy industry—announcements of technology improvements, installation milestones and price reductions of all kinds hit my inbox almost daily. But two recent reports, one highlighting where we’ve been and the second pointing to where we are going, are a useful grounding tool, pointing out that while I (and probably many others) often get lost looking at individual trees there is a whole forest out there.
The first report, an Energy Department publication dubbed Revolution…Now (which can be found here), walks through the startling changes in five clean energy technologies during the past five-plus years. While much of this information may be familiar, it is worth a quick review.
Continue reading Taking A Step Back
Brings Energy Revolution
Clearly Into Focus
Congressional Republican leaders and a number of GOP governors have marched virtually in lockstep for the past seven years in the opposite direction of President Obama’s environmental proposals, particularly regarding the development of emissions-free wind and solar power and initiatives to address climate change. It is now embarrassingly obvious that they are marching to a tune that only they can hear, and that virtually no one else, not even most of their own party, is following along.
A fascinating poll (which can be found here) released last month shows conclusively that the vast majority of Republicans nationwide (see chart below) support government action to spur the development of clean energy sources, policies that by definition would cut emissions and help address climate change concerns. Unfortunately, in the current congressional climate those very same views could get a Republican congressman run out of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives by the give no-quarter Freedom Caucus if its members weren’t otherwise preoccupied with shutting down the whole chamber. Specifically, the poll found that a whopping 72 percent of Republicans said they supported taking steps to spur the development of clean energy. Even among self-described conservative Republicans, 68 percent supported clean energy. In addition, the poll found that most Republicans, even the self-identified conservative Republicans, said the climate was changing and that human activity is at least partially responsible.
Continue reading Republican Leaders
Badly Out Of Step
With Party Regulars
Resources for the Future released some interesting global warming polling data last week that should be required reading for energy and environmental policy wonks nationwide.
Not surprisingly, the data, collected in January in partnership with Stanford University and the New York Times, shows strong public support for tackling the issue. Not surprising because, to be honest, if the results didn’t show such support they likely never would have been released. But also, for anyone that has been paying attention, the latest results are not surprising because the public has backed action on climate change in poll after poll for years.
What is far more interesting are some of the details and trends apparent in the latest data. But before we delve into those details, a note or two about polls: They are, to be sure, a fascinating means of getting a snapshot view on a given issue, but the results should never be taken as the Gospel truth. Indeed, just like the energy forecasts I caution about (see here for more on that), they should be interpreted cautiously.
Still, it is worth taking a closer look at a couple of the results from the latest RFF polling.
Continue reading Public Is Way Ahead
Of Congressionial GOP
On Climate Change,
RFF Polling Shows