Yet that is what we have, not because conventional energy sources aren’t available, but because we have been following an impossible dream that renewables can replace “baseload” power in electricity production. Half the power-generating capacity added in the U.S. last year was solar and wind, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Although the idea of emission-free renewables has obvious appeal, it simply isn’t realistic to believe that solar and wind power can replace the need for fossil fuels and nuclear power. Despite government tax credits and state mandates for renewables, solar and wind, combined, supply only 8 percent of the nation’s electricity. This is a tiny share, in contrast to coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, which account for more than 80 percent of the nation’s electricity-generating capacity.
Here in Georgia, fossil fuels and nuclear power supply 94 percent of the electricity.
Electricity reliability and resiliency matter. That’s why Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is backing a plan to save financially-struggling coal and nuclear plants. Over the past decade, more than 100,000 megawatts of coal power have been lost due to competition from cheap shale gas and heavy-handed environmental regulation. Another 17,000 megawatts are expected to be taken off line by 2020. Also, a half-dozen safe and efficient nuclear plants have been shuttered – and others are in jeopardy.
Instead, we have been relying increasingly on natural gas for electricity production. But that’s problematic, because gas has a history of price volatility and is in growing demand worldwide. There’s an element of uncertainty surrounding the future availability and price of natural gas that should not be ignored.
Coal is not without its environmental problems, but its value as an affordable and reliable source of energy is great enough that we ought to be working together to solve them. Besides, the use of coal worldwide is projected to increase in the years ahead.
Instead of turning our back on coal, we should be investing in more research on advanced coal technologies and making the results available to other countries. A case in point is ultra-supercritical pulverized coal technology, which raises the efficiency of coal burning, while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Another is carbon capture utilization and storage, a process that could lead to practical ways for converting carbon emissions into useful products like petrochemicals and plastics.
Bringing nuclear power back into the energy mix nationally is also important, but doing so will require a change in thinking, especially a willingness to consider the use of advanced reactor systems such as small modular reactors that can be built in less time than a conventional power plant.
The Trump administration needs to act quickly and decisively to save coal and nuclear plants while there is still time. An assured supply of electricity is critical for our nation’s economy, while protecting consumers from brownouts and blackouts, sudden price increases, and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in communities where coal and nuclear plants are located.
See the article here.
- On July 30, 2018