Coal Loses Crown As King Of Power Generation
January 11, 2013
Just a few years ago, Georgia Power generated nearly three-fourths of its electricity with coal. Last year, for the first time, natural gas edged out coal, and just this week the company announced plans to close 10 coal-fired power generators within the next few years.
within a few years only a third of the company’s power plants will run on coal.
The company has already built three new natural gas plants. It’s expanding a nuclear plant and going bigger into solar and wind
The dramatic and swift shift away from coal at Georgia Power is part of a nationwide trend: After decades in which coal was king of electricity generation, natural gas is making a bid for the title.
The development already has shrunk the electricity industry’s environmental footprint and reduced prices on wholesale power.
One factor is the expectation that low prices for natural gas will continue because of the shale gas boom across the country.
Another is that new federal rules require coal plants to clean up the mercury and other toxic chemicals in their exhausts.
Installing those pollution controls makes no sense when gas is so cheap.
He says whether the trend continues after 2018 depends on several factors:
– how much the economy and demand for electricity pick up
– whether natural gas prices stay low
– if the federal government comes up with new regulations to limit greenhouse gases and clean up solid wastes from existing power plants
Shea predicts coal will not be the only loser in what he calls electric companies’ “dash to gas.” “We’re not seeing any new coal built,” he says. “But we’re also are not seeing much occurring in the nuclear sphere.
And importantly, the price of gas right now is starting to freeze out the demand for renewables.”
Still, natural gas is cleaner than coal, so the shift from coal already has decreased overall greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.
But Brune cautions that we can’t rely on natural gas to stabilize the climate and stop the catastrophic effects of global warming that we got a taste of last year. Brune says that means the country has to figure out a way to make the shift to natural gas a temporary one.
Miners Weather The Slow Burn Of Coal’s Demise
July 14, 2012