🌞 More expensive to keep coal plants running than to build new renewable

🌞 More expensive to keep coal plants running than to build new renewable

It is now cheaper to build new wind and solar power production, than to keep coal-fired power plants operating.

Mathias Sundin
Mathias Sundin

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According to a recent analysis, renewables have become more economically viable than coal in the United States.

For 99% of the country's coal-fired power plants, it's now more costly to continue operating than to construct a completely new solar or wind energy facility in the vicinity.

Due to the drastic drop in the cost of renewable energy, which has been further accelerated by the Inflation Reduction Act of last year, it is now more cost-effective to construct a collection of new wind turbines or an array of solar panels and link them to the power grid, than it is to continue operating all 210 coal plants in the contiguous United States, except for one.

β€œCoal is unequivocally more expensive than wind and solar resources, it’s just no longer cost competitive with renewables,” said Michelle Solomon, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation, who did the analysis, to The Guardian.

Typically, the marginal cost for coal plants is $36 per megawatt hour, whereas the cost for new solar energy is approximately $24 per megawatt hour, representing a reduction of about one-third in cost.

Coal used to be a major source of power for the US power grid. At its peak in 2007, it generated enough electricity to illuminate 186 million homes. However, its output had decreased by 55% by 2021.

β€œThere’s a huge opportunity here to invest in coal communities, build local economic resilience and save money in the process," said Solomon.

Entering the third phase of renewable energy

That this was about to happen is something Warp News wrote about three years ago.

🌞 Insanely low solar prices
Even the most optimistic forecasters have been wrong, the price of solar energy has dropped even faster. Soon it is cheaper to build new solar energy than to retain existing coal and gas.

It is was Ramez Naam calls the third phase of renewable energy:

In phase one, renewable energy is dependent on policy decisions and financial support.

In phase two, it is cheaper to build renewable energy production than to build new gas and coal energy production.

In the third phase, it is cheaper to build new renewable energy production than it is to continue to run existing coal and gas energy production.

Mathias Sundin
The Angry Optimist