Screenshot 2014-08-27 05.48.28

The US is using more Green Electricity, but are We Winning?

EIA electricity statistics for the first six months of 2014 

By Roy L Hales

Renewable sources provided 14.3% of America’s energy during the first half of 2014. That represents a 10.4% increase over last year. Utility scale solar is up almost 116%. The US is using more green electricity, but are we winning?

Data from EIA - Roy L Hales
Data from EIA - Roy L Hales

Impressive as these gains sound when viewed as percentages, there is still little perceivable drop in fossil fuel usage.

Coal has been America’s preferred fuel. Though natural gas leads the nation in terms of installations, its electricity production actually dropped 1.3%. Despite strict regulation and the fact no new coal plants are coming online – usage is up 5.5%! The reason: coal is cheaper.

Though half of the responding utilities in a recent utilities poll said they were replacing their coal and nuclear facilities with natural gas (another fossil fuel!), this choice is dictated by necessity rather than preference.

Yet America’s energy portrait is changing. Three colours dominate the map at the top of this page. It depicts installations for this coming year. The dominant colour in the West is yellow (utility-scale solar). Green (wind energy) is strong in the central states. The reddish-brown spots in Texas and the northeast are natural gas plants. There is a single grey (coal) facility in Mississippi.

Most of the grey dots are found on another map: retiring generating units.

Screenshot 2014-08-27 05.54.37
Retiring Generating Plants – Courtesy EIA

Close to 24% of America’s coal powered plants do not conform to the new EPA regulations. As many as 16% may retire and not undergo costly retrofits. Most of these are in the eastern half of America.

Natural gas plants have been replacing coal since 2000. According to the EIA, by 2035 LNG fuelled plants should supplant coal.

The renewable sector should eventually supplant natural gas. They have already, in terms of installations.  53.8% of new installations up to the end of July were from  “green” sectors, as opposed to 45.9% LNG.

According to Allan Hoffman, a retired senior executive from the DOE, the renewable sector could be supplying 50-60% of America’s energy by 2050.   He believes that natural gas will still be used.

The result will be a healthier America.

The EPA calculate that recent changes to carbon pollution standards, alone,  “will avert up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks every year. The value of the air quality improvements for people’s health alone totals $37 billion to $90 billion each year. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce this pollution, Americans get $3-9 in health benefits.”

2 thoughts on “The US is using more Green Electricity, but are We Winning?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>