Home / Business / 74% of US coal-fired power plants are threatened by renewables, but emissions continue to rise

74% of US coal-fired power plants are threatened by renewables, but emissions continue to rise

  Wind turbines near a coal power plant.
Enlarge / Wind turbines spin as steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jäenschwalde coal-fired power plant.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Monday saying that by 2018, global energy-related CO 2 emissions had risen by 1

.7 percent to 33 gigatons. This is the largest increase in emissions the world has recorded since 2013.

The use of coal contributed to a third of the total increase, mainly due to new coal-fired power plants in China and India. This is worrisome, as new coal-fired power plants have a lifespan of around 50 years. However, the consequences of climate change are already ahead, and the strong carbon emission profile compared to other sources of energy means that reducing CO2 emissions worldwide will be much more difficult to tackle than could be the case in the US. [19659004] According to the IEA, CO2 emissions in the United States rose by 3.1 percent in 2018 as well. (This largely follows the estimates of the Rhodium Group, which issued a preliminary report in January stating that US carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018.)

"China, the United States, and India combined by country almost 70 percent of the increase in energy demand, "wrote Reuters.

74 percent of the uneconomic coal power plant in the US?

The numbers remind us that the economy alone is not enough to curb CO2 emissions in the United States. Last week, the US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said US CO2 emissions will remain about the same until 2050.

This estimate takes into account large-scale CO2 reduction measures This was already scheduled for many federal states by the end of 2018, including California's promise to fully meet its energy needs with CO2-free electricity. (However, it does not take into account recent policy decisions, such as the similar New Mexico pledge signed in March.)

Energy Information Administration

The EIA projections suggest that coal is aggressively withdrawn from use In the end, the 1750 EIA expects that 17% of the nation's energy mix will come from coal-fired power plants.

There is hope that the projections of the EIA are too conservative. Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE) analyst firm and impartial think-tank Energy Innovation released a report (PDF) on Monday saying that 74 percent of coal-fired power plants in the US are uneconomic compared to new local renewables. That is, the report compared the marginal energy cost (MCOE) of continued operation of coal-fired power plants with the Levelized Energy of Energy (LCOE) of replacing that capacity with new wind or solar power plants. The result was that megawatt-hour for megawatt hour was brand new renewable energy cheaper than 74 percent of the time to continue operating existing coal-fired power plants. In 2025, researchers found that 85 percent of the US coal fleet was uneconomical compared to brand new renewable energy.

So why are coal-fired power plants not going to retire if they run so badly to keep going? compared to newer, cleaner energy? Ultimately, the cost of running a coal-fired power plant differs from the price paid by the owner of the power plant, and in many markets old power plants can make a profit with the installments they collect. Specifically, Utility Dive points out that many coal-fired power plants in the northeast benefit from selling electricity on the capacity market of the regional grid operator, a market for energy companies that can sell their electricity years ago.

VCE and Energy Innovation admit that this is easy to compare MCOE of coal and LCOE of renewable energy are not enough to determine if a coal-fired power plant will be shut down. However, the company's report states that any coal-fired power plant that has failed this comparison should "spark a wake-up call to policymakers and local stakeholders that there is a chance for productive change in the immediate vicinity of this plant"


On Tuesday, Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a report stating that the LCOE of lithium-ion batteries is on a network scale (ie the cost of batteries and installation divided by the amount of usable energy they will provide) their lifetime) has fallen by 35 percent since the first half of 2018 to $ 187 per megawatt hour.

By comparison, the VCE and Energy Innovation report released Monday found that most existing coal-fired power plants have an MCOE of $ 33 to $ 111 per megawatt hour. If the price of batteries continues to drop as much as in 2018, lithium-ion battery banks may soon be competitive with a number of more expensive but still-in-service coal plants in the US. And unlike wind and sun, large battery banks provide energy that can be used regardless of whether the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.

However, waiting for economic growth and killing coal does not solve the problem of natural gas, which is extremely cheap and booming in the United States. Natural gas was responsible for the increase in CO2 emissions last year. To tackle this problem, it now appears that policies or technology need to intervene.

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