On August 8, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the bipartisan Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act provided tax incentives and loan guarantees for innovative technologies that minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 jump started renewable energy projects across the United States, particularly utility scale wind farms and solar parks. In August 2005, coal was the primary fuel used by utilities to generate electricity. America utilities used coal (48.5%), natural gas (22.1%), nuclear power (18.1%), renewable energy (8.0%) and petroleum (3.3%).
In April 2019, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) reported that the amount of renewable energy (hydropower, wind, solar, etc.) capacity in the United States now exceeds coal-fueled power plant capacity! The United States now has 257.53 GW of installed renewable energy capacity, compared to 257.48 GW installed coal-fired power plant capacity.
The FERC predicts a bleak future for coal and a bright future for renewable energy. The FERC forecast that over the next three years 41.86 GW of new renewable energy projects will become operational. The FERC further forecasts that coal-fired power plants will experience a net loss in total capacity of 12.43 GW.
Why has renewable energy snatched the crown from coal? Economics and environmental factors are driving utilities to continue to abandon coal-fired power plants. Coal ash has been proven to leach into the ground water at coal-fired power plants. Coal ash contains arsenic, mercury and lead which can be extremely toxic.
Coal also generates 30% to 40% more carbon dioxide than natural gas, which is a significantly cheaper fuel than coal. The cheapest fuel sources today without any subsidies or tax credits are onshore wind, solar, hydropower and natural gas. In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason for American utilities to continue to use coal.
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