End of year musings on coal and its competitors
Some thoughts as we get closer to a new energy policy. Our total U.S. electric grid has a peak capacity of just over 1,000 GW. (That’s 1 billion kilowatts or, if you prefer, enough to power 10 billion hundred-watt light bulbs.)
Of that total, here’s what we’ve installed just since 1995:
~200 MW of solar PV
~10,000 MW of wind
~45,000 MW of combined heat & power
~200,000 MW of natural gas (about half of which was combined cycle, which runs at almost 2x the fuel efficiency of the U.S. grid)
I take this as cause for great optimism. In just over 10 years, we have installed almost 25 percent of the entire capacity on the U.S. grid, all of which represented an environmental and economic step forward relative to the generation mix that came before.
As for the other stuff? During the same period, we’ve installed:
0 MW of coal-fired generation
0 MW of nuclear power
That’s in spite of the fact that we subsidize the hell out of coal and nuke.
We’re not out of the woods yet, and we still have massive barriers to clean technologies. (After all, just because you’re driving the car forward doesn’t mean that you remembered to take off the emergency brake.) But this all seems promising to me. When you tilt the playing field as far as we currently tilt it and the market still favors cleaner technology, it may just become obvious to everyone that the solution isn’t to subsidize the dirty stuff harder.
No wonder ACCCE is working so hard.
(Note: All values shown are net of retirements.)