Why 2015 may be remembered as a transformative year for how we get energy
Source: The Washington Post
The United States is on track to shut down a record amount of coal-fired power plants in 2015. At the same time, it has installed a record amount of new solar energy capacity.
The past year, in other words, hints at a historic transition for the U.S. energy sector. From dramatic price plunges for oil and natural gas to the significant emergence of industrial batteries for energy storage, 2015 was on a momentous course even before the world came together in Paris to agree on steps to reduce global warming.
While it’s not always a simple story, the overall tenor of these changes is clear — Americans are moving into a world that will get less of its energy from fossil fuels, that will embrace clean or low emission sources of electricity and that will write this into policy.
The change didn’t begin in 2015 — and won’t happen overnight. Nor is it really marked by any single development – but rather, by a whole range of them. Just consider these developments this year:
A turn away from coal. If there is one energy sector that received seemingly uninterrupted bad news in 2015, it was coal. From the Clean Power Plan in the United States — which will privilege natural gas and renewables — to plans in the United Kingdom to “close all unabated coal-fired power stations” by 2025, this energy source will struggle in a new world of international climate concerns.
It’s expected that by the end of 2015 in the United States, there will have been a record number of coal plant retirements. According to government data, 11 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants “had already dropped offline through September 2015,” said Colleen Regan, senior analyst for North American power at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. She added that 3.4 gigawatts were scheduled to go offline in the fouth quarter of this year. The total, of 14.4 gigawatts, would be “far above the previous record of 9.3GW lost in 2012,” Regan said.