The Growing Cost of Coal

The Growing Cost of Coal

  For more than a century, Americans have been conditioned to think of coal as a cheap and abundant energy source—and for much of that period it was true. However, the passage of time can change such things, and it has. Big time. Today’s reality is, as the nation’s aged coal-fired power plants continue to get older, using coal for electricity generation has gotten more and more expensive. Like cars, homes, or most anything else, coal plants require more investment in repairs and maintenance as they age. These investments become an ever-greater portion of the power generation cost. In Arizona, a recent filing by Tucson Electric Power (TEP) shows just how dramatic this reality is affecting the price of coal-generated electricity. TEP projects that the 2020 to 2030 cost of electricity from two of the primary coal plants it relies on, Four Corners and San Juan, will be $80 per megawatt hour (MWh) or more. In its cost chart (see below), TEP also projects power from new combined cycle gas plants to cost more than $50 per MWh, while solar power comes in at only $29 per MWh. Regardless of where you live, if coal is a big part of your utility’s power mix, odds are it is causing your electricity rates to be higher than they should be. The investment firm Lazard Asset Management, which keeps track of global energy prices, reports that the cost for electricity from coal-fired power plants can run as much as $143 per MWh. By contrast, many solar contracts, especially in the Western U.S., are selling electricity for less than $25 per MWh....
Huge Bi-Partisan Win for Renewable Energy

Huge Bi-Partisan Win for Renewable Energy

With an unprecedented level of bi-partisan support, both houses of the Nevada legislature have passed a bill to establish a state renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030. The vote was unanimous, with “yea” votes recorded by every Republican and Democrat in the Nevada Senate and General Assembly. The legislation (S.B. 358), which also sets a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, was signed into law by Governor Sisolak on April 22. Given Nevada’s tremendous solar and geothermal energy potential, the low costs of these energy sources, and the state’s urgent need to diversify away from expensive natural gas generation, passing this legislation was the smart and conservative choice. Currently, Nevada depends on out-of-state natural gas for more than two thirds of its electricity generation. This makes no sense for a state that has unrivaled solar and geothermal resources–even more so, now that electricity generated by these renewables is cheaper than electricity generated using natural gas. Even new solar plants with storage are beating the price of gas-generated power. Also, since the price of natural gas is projected to double between now and 2030, Nevada residents were facing significant electricity rate increases. Solar energy, by contrast, is forecast to continue getting cheaper. CRS has been sounding the alarm about Nevada’s risky over-reliance on natural gas and the lack of diversity in its electricity portfolio for several years. It is gratifying to see the state take this prudent action to address that problem. There are still some on the political right, mostly those with close ties to special interests, who still peddle tired old canards that renewable...

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