It was a good year for clean energy and a tough one for coal. Despite the ham-fisted attempts of the Trump administration, coal plants are shuttering around the country. The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports that 2018 saw the second most gigawatts of coal plant closures ever, and coal consumption was down to the lowest level since 1976.
Serious People Addressing Serious Issues
Recall the day after Thanksgiving, when 13 U.S. government agencies released a scientific report showing that climate change is not just degrading our natural environment and public health, it also is degrading our economy.
Of course Trump tried to bury the actual report and then overwhelm us with blatantly false tweets. Don’t take the bait, though. Since then, serious people have been taking serious action to address the real issues we all face.
200 countries just agreed to a set of rules to implement the United Nations Paris Climate agreement. While the U.S. delegation held laughable sideshows promoting fossil fuels, the serious people pushed the coal barons to the side and got to work. Now there are binding international rules for tracking and reporting carbon emissions. This is solid progress because companies that act internationally will follow these international norms.
U.S. Companies Making Serious Decisions
Meanwhile back in the states, major companies are concluding that fossil fuels are expensive and dirty. Indiana is a top-10 state for coal production and consumption. The utility for northern Indiana just decided to close all of its coal plants by 2028 in favor of renewable energy. Why? One word – cost. This plan will save Indiana ratepayers $4 billion over ten years while reducing carbon pollution by 90%.
Xcel Energy, based in Minnesota and with major service territory in Colorado, announced plans to be 100% carbon free by 2050. Like Indiana, Xcel is making the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy to save money for customers, maintain a reliable system and address climate change.
Earlier this summer Xcel provided an example of this transition from coal to clean energy by announcing the replacement of two coal units with wind and solar power. Again, while politicians tweet, serious people are investing in clean energy.
Closer to home, PacifiCorp runs most of the coal plants in the western U.S. They just released a study showing many of the coal units are more expensive than alternatives – including the Jim Bridger coal plant they co-own with Idaho Power. This coal analysis should factor into the long-term resource plans that PacifiCorp and Idaho Power are conducting and where we can identify clean options.
Ready for More in 2019
Despite some rhetoric and posturing, 2018 was a good year for clean energy and terrible for fossil fuels. Countries, companies and citizens around the world are taking meaningful action to cause change. In Idaho, consumers saved an almost record amount of electricity, more Idahoans installed their own solar systems, and companies like Clif Bar & Company invested major money into clean energy. To paraphrase Rick Springfield, "our future is so bright, we’ve got to wear shades."