Coal may be down but utilities need to begin planning a divestment from natural gas
image credit: Courtesy EIA
- Sep 24, 2020 10:37 am GMTSep 22, 2020 11:38 pm GMT
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Coal has submitted to renewable sources in electricity production in the U.S., the peak of an anti-coal campaign that really began heating up at the start of the 2010s. This is not news, at least it is not unexpected. The country's leading voices in clean energy have been working to beat back the hard, black lumps of fossil fuel enemy for a long time. With significant advancements in clean energy and its cost, coal has long been on its way out and activists across the country seem to now be claiming victory.
Quietly, as coal has taken the beating and attracted much of the ire, natural gas, the less tangible fossil fuel, has apparently won over the hearts and wallets of America's energy producers and utilities. On July 27, the U.S. set a new record as natural gas represented 45% of the country's energy generation portfolio. Nearly half! Between January and July of this year, natrual gas's portion of generation rarely dipped below 40% and, many times, eclipsed it. According to a recent Forbe's article, in 2001, between January and May, natural gas accounted for 15% of energy generation in the U.S.
A three-fold increase in reliance on natural gas in the last 20 years is not great. Yes, natural gas's CO2 emissions are about 50-60% that of coal and oil; however, this year, natural gas represents nearly double coal's portion of electricity source. Mining for natural gas, which has picked up during the shale oil revolution, emits significant amounts of methane, which is better than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
LIke renewables, the cost of natural gas has dropped considerably. At one point, there was too much natural gas being produced and not enough buyers. With coal trending downwards, it's time for utilities to step up and squeezing natural gas into a much smaller portion of their energy portfolios. It's not an easy task considering how cost-effective natural gas can be for a company; however, utilities need to stop celebrating the divestment from coal and begin committing to shrinking their reliance on natural gas.