Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Natural Gas Killed Coal – Now Renewables and Batteries Are Taking Over

Evolution of the American power grid mix since 1960. (Illustration Credit: Carbon Brief) Click to Enlarge.
Over the past decade, coal has been increasingly replaced by cheaper, cleaner energy sources. US coal power production has dropped by 44% (866 terawatt-hours [TWh]).  It’s been replaced by natural gas (up 45%, or 400 TWh), renewables (up 260%, or 200 TWh), and increased efficiency (the US uses 9%, or 371 TWh less electricity than a decade ago).

In other words, of the 866 TWh of lost coal power production, 46% was picked up by natural gas, 43% by increased efficiency, and 23% by renewables.

Natural gas is an unstable ‘bridge fuel’
While the shift away from coal is a positive development in slowing global warming by cutting carbon pollution, as Joe Romm has detailed for Climate Progress, research indicates that shifting to natural gas squanders most of those gains.  For example, a 2014 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that when natural gas production is abundant, it crowds out both coal and renewables, resulting in little if any climate benefit. Part of the problem is significant methane leakage from natural gas drilling.
...abundant gas consistently results in both less coal and renewable energy use […] the quantity of methane leaked may ultimately determine whether the overall effect is to slightly reduce or actually increase cumulative emissions […] only climate policies bring about a significant reduction in future emissions from US electricity generation … We conclude that increased natural gas use for electricity will not substantially reduce US GHG emissions, and by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies, may actually exacerbate the climate change problem in the long term.
Read more at Natural Gas Killed Coal – Now Renewables and Batteries Are Taking Over

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