File this one under W for With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies? President* Trump front-loaded his 2016 campaign with a pledge to revive the US coal industry, but during his tenure the growth prospects for coal power have flatlined. The latest outlook on electricity generation from Trump’s own Department of Energy serves up the bad news for coal with a side of good news about renewable energy and some so-so news for natural gas, too.
The new update comes from the Energy Information Administration. The office was established in 1974 as part of the federal response to the oil crisis. EIA comes under the Department of Energy umbrella, though its Congressional mandate provides it with a semi-independent mandate to produce policy-neutral data, analysis, and forecasts.
That emphasis on neutrality certainly comes into play in the new EIA electricity generation update. It came out last Thursday, January 10 under the headline, “New electric generating capacity in 2019 will come from renewables and natural gas.”
Coal stakeholders might want to stop reading right there, or at least keep a box of Kleenex handy. For that matter, storm clouds are on the horizon for natural gas, too.
For 2019, EIA totals up 10.9 gigawatts in new wind capacity and 4.3 gigawatts of utility scale solar. Under a separate report, the office also notes that another 3.9 gigawatts of small-scale solar capacity are on the way this year. It’s also worth noting here that the Department of Energy still has high hopes for small scale, distributed wind power.
Even without considering small scale wind or solar power, the 2019 renewable energy outlook is double the expected additions from natural gas. Utility scale wind and solar came in at 15.2 gigawatts together for 2019, leaving natural gas far behind at just 7.5 gigawatts (most of that new gas capacity will be from the new generation of high efficiency combined-cycle plants).
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