Are We Turning Away from Fossil Fuels?

February 5, 2017

Associated Press:

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The plunging cost of solar power is leading U.S. electric companies to capture more of the sun just when President Donald Trump is moving to boost coal and other fossil fuels.

Solar power represents just about 1 percent of the electricity U.S. utilities generate today, but that could grow substantially as major electric utilities move into smaller-scale solar farming, a niche developed by local cooperatives and non-profits.

It’s both an opportunity and a defensive maneuver: Sunshine-capturing technology has become so cheap, so quickly, that utilities are moving to preserve their core business against competition from household solar panels.

“Solar growth is so extensive and has so much momentum behind it that we’re at the point where you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” said Jeffrey R.S. Brownson, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies solar adoption. “You either learn how to work with this new medium, solar energy, or you’re going to face increasing conflicts.”

The transition away from coal-burning power plants now seems unstoppable, even if Trump scraps rules requiring utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The average lifetime cost for utility-scale wind and solar generation in the U.S. is now cheaper than coal or nuclear and comparable to natural gas, according to financial advisory firm Lazard, which compared the fuel costs without their federal tax subsidies.

Wind and solar were expected to account for about two-thirds of the new electricity generation capacity added to the nation’s power grid in 2016, outpacing fossil fuel expansion for a third straight year, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

And even though big investor-owned utilities operate as legal monopolies in many states, the bill-lowering appeal of rooftop solar for many homeowners could eventually threaten their ability to finance and manage the power grids.

These trends help explain why utilities are increasingly adopting a model called “community solar,” or “shared solar,” which involves customers agreeing to buy or lease solar panels on large arrays built for the utility, or to buy the power they produce. That electricity is then credited off utility bills under contracts that can lock in power prices for 10 years or more.

Utility-run shared solar also can address competition from independent solar companies that install and operate rooftop solar panels, harvesting and providing the energy at a fixed cost to the individual consumer or some other buyer.

These projects also could appeal to the roughly half of American households that can’t install solar panels because they don’t own their homes, lack the good credit needed to finance an installation, or lack sufficient roof space where the sun shines consistently, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory reported.



12 Responses to “Are We Turning Away from Fossil Fuels?”

  1. vierotchka Says:

    I sure hope so, and the sooner the better.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Here’s “Sneaky” VERA, being “fair and balanced” here with an inane but “nice” comment on this thread while she does her troll dirty work on the NOAA thread. Go there and see the other side of the coin.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          I’ll use the same reply as I did to her similar response on the Much Ado About NOAA thread” since it fits perfectly here as well:

          “Typical non-response from VERA. She was again caught with her baggy Russian knickers down around her ankles and can come up with nothing but BS. (I like how she gives herself “thumbs up” also—LOL)”

          PS Speaking of schmucks, VERA may not have been born a Shitsva, but she is one now. (Shitsva–a revenge plotting, superficial, stuck up, nasty little teenaged girl who just cant get over herself, and thinks she’s the “cat’s meow”)

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Let’s turn away from Shitsva VERA and get on topic.

    Kammen makes many good points—-that the natural gas that has replaced most of the coal is not much better and may be worse at reducing emissions in many cases, and that locking in so much $$$ into new gas-burning plants is going to slow conversion to renewables. The money-grubbers that built those plants are going to fight to the death to get maximum ROI from them.

    We are in a horse race, folks, and just because renewables now seem to be the fastest horse on the track and catching up, they are so far behind the lumbering old nags of fossil fuels that the issue is in doubt—-bright-sidedness and wishful thinking are trumped by reality.

  3. toddinnorway Says:

    Oy vey…!

  4. What’s even better is that these numbers are for gross additions to capacity. Net of coal generator withdrawals from production, just under 100% of net capacity last year was from renewables and more than 100% in the year before.

  5. rayhsrq Says:

    I believe the professor missed one important point, which is the control you have by installing your own system. With solar you actually have fixed pricing you can count and plan on with your own system, even when factoring costs of replacement components. By the way, the prices of future components will only go down as they are tech driven simular to computers, cell phones, etc. Additionally if you include battery backups you gain leverage over emergency outages as well. Remember, even as the central utilities get greener which is good and totally makes common sense based on the lower costs of solar, some are charging an added fee just for “them” to go solar. Also you’re still a captive audience and subject to the utility’s price increases regardless. So there is just something good about the consumer having a “choice”, even if you must still contribute to subsidizing the main grid as long as they credit you for that which they benefit from when buying your excess power (net metering and another subject).

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