• 5 hours UK On Track To Approve Construction of “Mini” Nuclear Reactors
  • 9 hours LNG Glut To Continue Into 2020s, IEA Says
  • 11 hours Oil Nears $52 With Record OPEC Deal Compliance
  • 14 hours Saudi Aramco CEO Affirms IPO On Track For H2 2018
  • 16 hours Canadia Ltd. Returns To Sudan For First Time Since Oil Price Crash
  • 17 hours Syrian Rebel Group Takes Over Oil Field From IS
  • 3 days PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 3 days Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 3 days Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 3 days Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 3 days Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 3 days Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 4 days Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 4 days New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 4 days Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 4 days Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 4 days Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 4 days British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 4 days Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 4 days Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 4 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 5 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 5 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 5 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 5 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 5 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 5 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 5 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 6 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 6 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 6 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 6 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 6 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 7 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 7 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 7 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 7 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 7 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 7 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 7 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
Alt Text

The Next Big Digital Disruption In Energy

Blockchain technology is transforming the…

Alt Text

China Takes Aim At The Petrodollar

In a potentially disrupting move…

Alt Text

Oil Prices Spike On Middle East Tensions

Oil prices jumped upwards on…

Colin Chilcoat

Colin Chilcoat

Colin Chilcoat is a specialist in Eurasian energy affairs and political institutions currently living and working in Chicago. A complete collection of his work can…

More Info

No Country For King Coal – The Changing U.S. Energy Mix

No Country For King Coal – The Changing U.S. Energy Mix

As of late last year coal formed the backbone of US electric generation capacity. At a share of roughly 39 percent, it still does. However, the US energy mix is rapidly changing and coal is past its peak.

In 2015, the US is expected to retire nearly 13 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generation – three times more than last year. An additional 5.2 GW will be retired in 2016. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) are the primary cause of this year’s large-scale retirements. MATS are slated to enter into force by year’s end, and the retrofits necessary to meet the increased emissions standards are largely, and by design, cost-prohibitive.

Most of the closings, more than 8 GW, are centered in the Appalachian region. Hardest hit is Ohio – and some of its largest utilities, AEP and FirstEnergy – where approximately 2.4 GW is leaving the fold. Indiana and Kentucky round out the top three with closings of more than 2 GW and 1 GW respectively. Outside of Appalachia, the US’ largest carbon dioxide emitter Southern Company will convert its 1.4 GW Yates plant to natural gas. Related: A “Wave of Bankruptcies” About To Hit Coal Industry

Coal’s current woes are well documented, but the industry – while dying – is far from dead. Simply put, you cannot replace almost 1.5 trillion kilowatthours of annual electricity generation overnight. For big coal, the looming retirements represent the lowest hanging - and lowest capacity – fruit. By 2040, coal is expected to account for approximately 21 percent, or 254.1 gigawatts, of electricity generating capacity – second only to natural gas.

Coal’s decline contrasts strong growth elsewhere – namely, among non-hydro renewables like wind and solar. Utilities expect to add over 20 GW of utility-scale generating capacity to the grid in 2015. Of that total, wind, solar, and natural gas additions will account for 91 percent. Related: Is China Exporting Its Pollution?

Since 2000, wind has been one of the fastest growing sources of new electricity supply and that trend will continue toward 2020. The industry expects to expand by more than 11 percent, or 9.8 GW, this year. Additions are planned across the nation, but the Plains states – from the Canadian border down to the Gulf – will see the bulk of new capacity. Per tradition, Texas will do it bigger. IKEA’s Cameron Wind project and Capital Dynamics’ Green Pastures development are just a fraction of the reported 7.5 GW of wind capacity currently under construction in Texas – already the nation’s largest producer of wind power.

Solar installations are largely limited to California, where new additions – 1.2 GW – are expected to account for more than 50 percent of the nationwide total for 2015. In fact, First Solar’s Desert Sunlight solar farm in the Mojave Desert – online as of February –will supply a quarter of this year’s new capacity. However, the real solar surprise comes out of North Carolina. The state, which has renewable portfolio standard policies in place, plans to add 0.4 GW to its approximately 1 GW of existing installed capacity. Leading the charge is Duke Energy, the state’s – and nation’s – largest electric power holding company. Duke recently announced investments of up to $225 million into commercial solar projects, which follows its $500 million commitment to North Carolina solar of late last year. Related: Renewables Poised For Massive Growth In The Middle East

The projected wind and solar capacity additions provide sufficient evidence that cheap oil – and cheap coal – won’t significantly alter steady renewables growth. Still, far lower utilization rates mean natural gas will replace much of the coal-fired losses in terms of pure generation. In all, natural gas will add 6.3 GW of generating capacity this year.

For now, gas is the bridge, but the jury is not out on its ultimate effectiveness. It’s actually quite dirty over its entire lifecycle and recent research suggests that a heavy blend of wind and coal may actually result in lower emissions than the current natural gas-based transition. That won’t work however, without steady congressional support for the production tax credit.

By Colin Chilcoat of Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • David Hrivnak on March 24 2015 said:
    I think the solar numbers are likely understated as many rooftop solar is not counted into the mix. From my utilities view my usage has dropped from 1000 KWh/month to 30 KWh. They really do not see my production they just see fewer KWH coming to me.
  • Carlo Ombello on March 25 2015 said:
    Interesting article, although apparently only focused on utility scale capacity additions.

    The bulk of solar capacity is added as distributed generation, the US installed in fact 6.2 GW of new PV in 2014. I guess that since the EIA data referred to in this article are focused on utilities, this important fact doesn't show up clearly. Similarly, 2015 will see further growth in this field, probably taking the US to add some 10-12 GW of PV this year.

    Clearly, with such pace of installations only growing further year on year as PV costs continue to drop along with cheaper energy storage technology, the picture for coal, and later gas, will get much bleaker than what EIA suggests. Exponential solar growth is the problem, or - in my opinion - the opportunity, for the energy business. It is a very visible black swan in the making. See China and Europe for more details.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News