APR 01, 2019 2:42 PM PDT

Solar and Wind Energy are now Cheaper than Coal

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Economic concerns, rather than environmental or regulatory, may be the key factor in replacing coal-generated electricity with renewable, clean energies. A recent analysis conducted by Energy Innovation, a non-partisan firm, revealed that 74% of U.S. coal production is now more expensive than the all-in building and production costs of wind and solar power. 

According to the analysis, this number is expected to rise to 86% by 2025, as the cost of solar and wind energy continue to outcompete coal systems. The cost crossover detailed in the report, titled “The Coal Cost Crossover,” calls to question “regulators and utilities as to why these coal plants should keep running instead of new renewable power plants.” 

In addition to the declining costs of clean-energy competitors, the operating expenses of coal plants are no longer sustainable in many cases. Expenses include maintenance and the installation of pollution controls. Currently, the operational costs of existing plants in North Carolina are 25% more than the cost of building a solar or wind plant. Many plants closed their doors in 2018, and at least 20 plants are expected to close down this year.

The states with the most at-risk coal plants are North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Texas. By 2025, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin are expected to be added to the list of at-risk plants. Unfortunately for many of these regions, coal plants remain a major employer and the closure of plants could have damaging effects on local economies. 

Efforts to revive the coal industry by the Trump Administration may have been “too little, too late,” according to Mike O’Boyle, the director of electricity policy at Energy Innovation. Even with rolled-back emissions regulations and a former coal lobbyist leading the EPA, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that coal-fired power generation dropped to 28% last year (from 48% in 2008). It’s expected to continue to fall to 24% by next year.

On the other hand renewable electricity generation in the U.S. has doubled since 2008, accounting for 17% of electricity generation, according to EIA. This year, large-scale solar power is expected to increase by 10%. Wind power is expected to surpass production levels of hydropower for the first time.

Sources: Energy Innovation, Energy Information Administration, CNN

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
JUN 08, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Unlocking Deep Ocean Mysteries with eDNA
JUN 08, 2020
Unlocking Deep Ocean Mysteries with eDNA
The ocean remains largely unexplored, and the ocean’s twilight zone is of key interest to researchers. Named for t ...
JUN 14, 2020
Plants & Animals
Giant Hornet Queen Struggles to Establish Her Nest
JUN 14, 2020
Giant Hornet Queen Struggles to Establish Her Nest
Giant hornets are among the world’s largest and deadliest hornets, which might explain why they’re so revere ...
JUN 18, 2020
Neuroscience
Living Environment Correlated with Living to 100
JUN 18, 2020
Living Environment Correlated with Living to 100
Researchers from Washington State University have found that where you live may predict how long you will live. In a stu ...
JUL 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Sharks Missing from 1/5 of World's Reefs
JUL 23, 2020
Sharks Missing from 1/5 of World's Reefs
Sharks of all sizes are vital to coral reef ecosystems, both as predators and prey. Shark populations have rapidly decli ...
JUL 31, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Advancing Nuclear Fusion by Taming the "Chirping" Plasma
JUL 31, 2020
Advancing Nuclear Fusion by Taming the "Chirping" Plasma
2020 turns out to a year of breakthrough for nuclear fusion. The world's largest fusion project ITER (International ...
AUG 14, 2020
Plants & Animals
Tracking the Iconic American Bison
AUG 14, 2020
Tracking the Iconic American Bison
The Great Plains of Montana are home to one of the United States' largest land restoration projects, known as the Am ...
Loading Comments...