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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Five Clean Energy Trends To Watch In 2020

At the start of 2020, analysts bravely stepped out on a limb to predict how the turbulent energy market and energy systems will evolve at the beginning of the new decade.  

Clean energy and climate policy experts have shared in Forbes their forecasts for this year’s energy system in the United States with Silvio Marcacci, Communications Director for climate policy think tank Energy Innovation.

The five experts are optimistic that the U.S. is set to make important steps toward a cleaner energy mix this year. They see continued coal decline, the beginnings of shaming the notion of widespread natural gas use, the continued rise of solar power installations, fight for federal incentives for clean energy, and the ever-growing public awareness about climate change as the five factors to watch in the U.S. energy landscape in 2020.

  1. The Death of Coal

For one month last year, renewables held a larger share than coal in U.S. monthly electricity generation, for the first time ever, reflecting seasonal factors and longer-term trends such as coal’s decline and renewables’ rise.

Many coal-fired plants are under “significant economic pressure,” the EIA said last year, noting that cheaper gas and renewables have increased competition for economically viable installed capacity. Since 2010, U.S. power companies have announced the retirement of more than 546 coal-fired power units, totaling about 102 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, while another 17 GW of coal-fired capacity is planned to be retired by 2025.

Just last week, cooperative wholesale power supplier Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced the retirement of its remaining New Mexico coal-fired power plant by the end of 2020 and its remaining Colorado coal plants and coal mine by 2030. Related: What’s Next For Oil? No One Seems To Agree

Experts predict that coal retirements will continue as more states, cities, and utilities will look to decarbonize the sources of their power supply.  

  1. Natural Gas Shaming

Clean energy and climate experts are now shaming the widespread household use of natural gas, which, although cleaner burning than coal, is still a fossil fuel contributing to carbon emissions.

Some experts predict that 2020 could be the ‘beginning of the end’ for natural gas use at homes as more cities are expected to ban gas hook-ups in new buildings.

In July 2019, the city council in Berkeley, California, passed an ordinance requiring all new homes to be all-electric with no gas hook-ups beginning in January 2020. Berkeley’s primary motivation for the gas hook-up ban was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of clean energy.  

However, in the U.S. power generation mix, natural gas is going nowhere—it is the single biggest source of electricity generation and will continue to be such in the coming years, thanks to abundant and cheap domestic gas. Although regional trends vary, natural gas and wind will be the fastest-growing sources of electricity generation in the United States through 2020, at the expense of coal, the EIA said in September.

One tenth of total U.S. carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels—primarily gas—for heating and cooking in homes and businesses,

Rocky Mountain Institute said in a report in 2019.

Commenting on the predictions for 2020, Rocky Mountain Institute’s Managing Director Bruce Nilles told Energy Innovation’s Marcacci:

“In 2020, watch this movement heed Greta Thunberg’s call to “start acting like our house is on fire” and exorcise gas from our communities just as we have done with coal.”

  1. The Rise of Solar

Falling costs have made possible the rise of renewable energy sources. According to research from Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean

Energy from 2019, as much as 74 percent of America’s coal-fired national fleet, or 211 GW, was at risk in 2018 from local wind or solar within 35 miles that could provide the same amount of electricity more cheaply. Related: OPEC Raises 2020 Global Oil Demand Growth Estimate

Utility solar photovoltaic (PV) becomes increasingly cost-competitive with wind, gas, and other electricity generation resources, the Q4 2019 Solar Market Insight Report by the Solar Energy Industries Association

(SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables showed

According to SEIA, climate policy, investment tax credit extension, state net energy metering, building codes, and renewable portfolio standards will all drive solar energy growth in the 2020s, which could be the Solar+ decade.

Cost reductions and encouraging policies could make solar the pillar of a clean energy economy, SEIA’s President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper says.

  1. Clean Energy Incentives

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) has vowed to work this year to fight for federal policies encouraging additional deployment of clean energy sources and supporting energy storage technologies.

“We need to repair a tax code that phases out renewable energy tax incentives, even as century-old incentives for fossil fuels remain untouched. Completing this unfinished business is a key priority for ACORE and a broad coalition of bipartisan allies in 2020,” Gregory Wetstone, President and CEO of the council told Energy Innovation’s Marcacci.  

  1. Growing Public Mobilization On Climate   

According to Leah Stokes, Assistant Professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, regardless of the progress in renewable sources deployment in the United States in 2020, the public awareness about climate change and climate issues will only increase, especially if the Trump Administration rolls back other environmental regulations.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Lee James on January 16 2020 said:
    While I see the 2020 trends much as described in the article, I'd like very much to comment about the #2 trend, "Shaming of natural gas."

    "Shaming" of natural gas? Isn't that a bit over the top? If we just look at the end-use of natural gas -- the end-burning -- it's not like the sky is falling. It's a valuable energy transition tool.

    However, end-use burning of natural gas is not the whole story. How else does natural gas affect our atmosphere? It turns out that natural gas is leaked and is flared so much that it is, today, not controversial to say that the advantages of burning natural gas are completely undone by leaks and flares.

    Leaking and flaring of potent greenhouse gasses have to be mentioned as the real basis for the apparent shaming of natural gas, in the news today
    .
  • Carlos Everett on January 17 2020 said:
    Tsvetana, still ignoring the solution to climate change as reported by ABC News?

    You are ignoring and missing two key factors. First throughout the United States , in all 50 states, Natural Gas costs to heat a home vs electric use, is cheaper by more than 50%, another way of saying this it costs $.40 to heat with natural gas vs costing $1.00 for electrical use. So you are asking all of America to hit their pocketbooks, for the sake of trying to solve the climate change problem, yet it has already been proven their are cheaper ways of solving this problem.

    Seconds on the emissions issue there are two areas that have the most emissions from natural gas, manufacturing plants and production where the gas is being vented. The companies in the US are already mounting a program to eliminate these emissions at manufacturing plants, so the main issue is mounting an effort to convince the Texas Railroad Commission and other state Agencies to reverse the permits allowing this venting. The RRC has three (3) commissioners elected by the voters in the State of Texas, and in a most recent permit to allow venting, one commissioner stepped up and said no. Ok, you got one on your side, so you need one more. There are millions of voters in the State of Texas that are liberal, a campaign could easily be started to elect a commissioner who leans towards no permits for venting.

    I am very familiar with this process of connecting to oil and gas wells venting gas. There are two alternatives to connecting the wells, it can be connected by a gas purchaser or the operator of the well can lay plastic pipe to the nearest gas line. If the well is producing crude oil and making money , the cost of laying a plastic gas line is negligible. So if the RRC would just pull the permits, so they could not produce the oil until the gas is connected to, you would see an amazing rush to connect the lines to that gas production. There could be a few wells that cost to much to economically connect to the gas wells but it would be negligible.

    So had you done more research you could see that natural gas is very much a fuel of the future, but i agree 100% with you, that lets produce more electricity utilizing more solar and wind and offshore wind, if they are in fact cheaper, then let the lowest cost provider win because we all want to heat our homes, air condition our homes by the cheapest method. Lets allow the free market to solve these issues, not a scientist who's paycheck is determined by how many more grants they receive from the US government for studying climate control , when in effect ABC News ( July 5th, 2019) has already announced which solution is the cheapest.

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